Fossilized remains of cyanobacteria thought to be among the first organisms on earth (Wikimedia Commons).

How did life originate? This puzzle has been studied by scientists for hundreds of years. Authors of a new paper in Nature have made significant progress towards solving this enigma by using cyanide as a starting material. While cyanide may be poisonous to us, mixing it with a specific chemical solution and heat seems to give rise to many of the molecules of life.

A key point not addressed by the media coverage of this paper is the manner in which the authors made the molecular precursors for life. Rather than relying on an all-at-once reaction to produce all of the key molecules, the authors of this study propose that a series of steps are more practical. In addition, they use phosphates, chemicals that would have been plentiful in the early earth, as a key ingredient in their reactions. These results hint strongly that cyanide and phosphates were key components of the primordial soup that produced life.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Olga Taran from the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department at Harvard University.

Managing Correspondent: Adam Brown, Waves Lead Editor

Original article: Chemists claim to have solved riddle of how life began on Earth – Phys.Org

Related SITN article: New route to the origin of life? Probably not.

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