A research funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) and the NASA Origins of Solar Systems Programme has been able to create three basic components of RNA and DNA, thegenetic code of life on earth, in a laboratory.
The researchers discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine, when exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions, produced the three essential ingredients of life – uracil, cytosine and thymine.
Pyrimidine, a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen is the central structure for uracil, cytosine and thymine.
“We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine and thymine non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space,” said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Centre, Moffett Field, California.
“Our experiments suggest that once the Earth formed, many of the building blocks of life were likely present from the beginning,” said Scott Sandford, another space science researcher at Ames.
The researchers found that if pyrimidine is frozen in ice containing ammonia, methanol or methane, it has a much higher chance of surviving the harmful radiation of the interstellar space.