In the drops of water the mechanism underlying life on Earth – Biotech

The mechanism at the basis of the birth of life on Earth is hidden in the drops of water: in fact, in this environment, on the border between water and air, very fast chemical reactions take place that have allowed the primordial amino acids, the bricks of base of proteins, to unite to form more complex molecules. The discovery, published in the journal of the American National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and led by the US-based Purdue University, could massively speed up the production of new drugs and treatments in the laboratory, a process that now takes many days or even weeks.

For decades, researchers have theorized that life on Earth began in the oceans, but the chemistry behind this process remained a mystery. The amino acids, brought to the primordial Earth by meteorites, in fact require the loss of a water molecule to bind together: for this reason it was not clear how a chemical reaction could take place that requires water but also a space far from water. Now, the authors of the study led by Graham Cooks have found an answer to the question: where water meets air, droplets host incredibly rapid reactions that allow proteins to form, without the need for other molecules to favor and speed up the mechanism. .

“This is essentially the chemistry behind the origin of life,” says Cooks. “It is the first demonstration that primordial molecules, simple amino acids, can spontaneously form more complex molecules, the building blocks of life, within droplets of pure water”, continues the researcher: “This is a fundamental discovery” , which could also contribute to the search for extraterrestrial life on other planets.