Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Origin Of Life - Cosmic Ancestry

In 1969, near the town of Murchison, Australia, a bright fireball slammed into the earth and created a tremor felt for miles around. Leaving a cloud of smoke, it was soon discovered that the object was a meteorite - spewing fragments in a thirteen mile radius. Upon impact, the space rock remained intact, but several small fragments broke off and fell through a barn roof onto a pile of hay. This strange and distant flight through space, couldn't have been better directed as a sci-fi thriller, except that it really happened and was found smoldering on a haystack. But this is only the beginning of the story...

Known as the Murchison meteorite it belonged to a group of meteorites rich in organic compounds.
The meteorite belonged to something called a CM group (carbonaceous chondrites) which meant it experienced extensive alterations by water-rich fluids on its parent body before falling to Earth. Parent body. Are you hearing this? Water rich fluids.....parent body. This means it came from a planet like ours. Shocked? I was. But wait, it gets even better.

Like certain other meteors it contained the basic components of life building chemicals known as amino acids. A complex mixture of alkanes was isolated as well. In 2010, we studied the meteorite again, and used spectroscopy this time,  identifying 70 amino acids, for a potential of over 50,000 more unique molecular compositions. This leaves the possibilities that millions of distinct organic compounds exist just in this one fragment from space. But don't get bored yet. It all means something very profound.

Later into the study the report found that these amino acids, were racemic and therefore formed in a natural manner because it's terrestrial proteins were all of the L-configurations.  The L or (left) configuration - also known as chirality, is a mystifying biological event, where amino acids, the little building blocks of life tend to build in a left hand way and not right. The mirror-image asymmetry of life is one of the biggest mysteries in biology, but it also happens to be how life is built here on Earth. And all of these little proteins and amino acids are what creates DNA and essentially what we are made of as well. It is not clear why nature elects a particular chirality, yet there are some organisms here that are symmetrical like flowers or the fivefold symmetry of a jellyfish. We are a part of this chemical make-up as well. Think about it. Humans beings are built with symmetry - for instance, our right hand to our left hand, and our right leg to our left.

So this one little piece of rock from space, definitely made an impact. Lets just say a ripple, in how we understand the origins of life.  Chirality in nature, and evidence struck upon us in 1969, leaves a few questions open, and envisages life on Earth as an extraterrestrial origin. This crack in our biological mirror suggests there is a potential relationship between life from outer-space and life on Earth.  Could extraterrestrial meteors have brought a program with them, to make us, when they hit our planet long ago? The evidence to support the idea continues to beg the question. Also known as cosmic ancestry this is a alluring theory and one that continues to be debated alongside evolution based research. Evolution, gene regulation and how we became what we are is deeply connected to the idea that we are the result of materials sent from an unknown maker outside of our galaxy. Many scientists remain skeptical of this idea, while others look to the heavens to explain how this planet's biological bias first arose.  The only way we can know for sure, is to set up our very own lab capable of evolution on its own which has never been accomplished so far.

Maybe this information is familiar to you, but the idea of cosmic ancestry is being investigated heavily and with great interest around the world.  The debate continues but countless scientific papers and biological research are published that helps support the theory. I hope I didn't lose you in the science but interstellar life and panspermia hypothesis gets pretty darn interesting when experts consistently publish research supporting evidence that our genes were programed before they were deployed on Earth, leaving no opportunity for standard darwinian trail-and-error. As it turns out, the latest research seems to point out that gene conversion keeps silent and protected over long periods of time. The stuff we used to call "junk" lies uncorrupted and protected over many generations confirming fundamental predictions of cosmic ancestry that explains life is older than Earth. 

I recently came across an article that said science studies life like a book, looking at the ink and the paper the book is made upon, but sometimes misses the study of the author who wrote it. As a writer I was drawn to that analogy. But as far as cosmic origin, I tend to think we will eventually conclude we are indeed connected to the universe in ways we never imagined.

Where do new genes come from? Geneticists in China and Canada offer an answer in a recentreport, "De Novo Origin of Human Protein-Coding Genes)(19 November 2011 )

What's NEW in Cosmic Ancestry, Apr-Jun 2013. by Brig Klyce

The industrial melanism mutation in British peppered moths is atransposable element
Published online 01 June 2016