'Extraterrestrial sugar' discovered in meteorites could be clue to origin of life

GREENBELT, Md. -- A team of international scientists says they've found sugars in meteorites that could be essential to the creation of life.

The team, which included scientists from NASA and other institutions, announced earlier this week that they had identified ribose and other bio-essential sugars in carbon-rich meteorites NWA 801 and Murchison.

NASA explained in a news release: "Ribose is a crucial component of RNA (ribonucleic acid). In much of modern life, RNA serves as a messenger molecule, copying genetic instructions from the DNA molecule (deoxyribonucleic acid) and delivering them to molecular factories within the cell called ribosomes that read the RNA to build specific proteins needed to carry out life processes."

The discovery supports a theory suggesting that chemical reactions in asteroids create certain building blocks of life. Those building blocks, the theory suggests, may have arrived on Earth following meteorite strikes.

"The research provides the first direct evidence of ribose in space and the delivery of the sugar to Earth. The extraterrestrial sugar might have contributed to the formation of RNA on the prebiotic Earth which possibly led to the origin of life," study lead author Yoshihiro Furukawa of Tohoku University explained.
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