Thursday, November 16, 2006

 

Selecting life: Scientists find new way to search for origin of life

Washington, D.C. - Over the last half century, researchers have found that mineral surfaces may have played critical roles organizing, or activating, molecules that would become essential ingredients to all life--such as amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and nucleic acids (the essence of DNA). But which of the countless possible combinations of biomolecules and mineral surfaces were key to this evolution? This vexing question has stumped scientists for years because of the sheer volume of possibilities. Now an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Robert Hazen (homepage), of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory and former president of the Mineralogical Society of America, has developed new protocols and procedures for adapting DNA microarray technology to rapidly identify promising molecule/mineral pairs.

Hazen's Presidential Address in the November/December issue of American Mineralogist describes this work. It sets out a first-of-its-kind comprehensive survey into research that has identified processes by which minerals may have prompted the transition from a geochemical world to a biological one almost four billion years ago.

Continued at "Selecting life: Scientists find new way to search for origin of life"
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Based on "Mineral surfaces and the prebiotic selection and organization of biomolecules" (Abstract available under 'Presidential Address' - 2nd entry in the left-hand column).

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