How did life originate? This puzzle has been studied by scientists for hundreds of years. Authors of a >new paper in PNAS claim to have found a clue: they bombarded a chemical (formamide) found on the earth around the time life arose with high energy laser to simulate a meteor impact. They then looked for and found some of the building blocks of life, including the bases of DNA, and suggested that a meteor impact could help create the components of life.
Unfortunately, this study suffers from several flaws: first, formamide would probably not have been as abundant as the authors suggest, calling into question whether their finding would be relevant for life on earth. In addition, the yields seen from their reactions are low and probably don’t represent a high enough concentration of bases to spur life. Finally, other synthetic mechanisms have already been proposed to make DNA bases that require less improbable circumstances.
For the article upon which the press release was based see below:
High-energy chemistry of formamide: A unified mechanism of nucleobase formation.
Special thanks to Olga Taran from the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department at Harvard University. Edited by SITN Waves Lead Editor Adam Brown.