Scientists find key building block for life

Scientists find key building block for life

A team from Hokkaido University and other organizations found a key building block for life in samples from the Ryugu asteroid that were retrieved from the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft.

The team found uracil, one of the four building blocks of RNA, which is used by cells to communicate genetic information.

They also found nicotinic acid, known as vitamin 3 or niacin.

According to a study published on Wednesday in the British journal Nature Communications, the findings reinforce a hypothesis that components of life were brought from space.

DNA is the blueprint of life. While DNA is made up of four nucleobases - adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine - RNA uses uracil instead of thymine.

The team analyzed samples from Ryugu using a highly sensitive method for detecting bases and other elements.

They also detected very small amounts of uracil and niacin, which aids the function of enzymes necessary for the metabolism of life.

The team had previously found all five types of nucleobases from meteorites that had fallen to Earth, but there was always the question of contamination by exposure to the Earth's environment.

The team discovered that these materials arrived on Earth from space.

Yasuhiro Oba, an associate professor at Hokkaido University who is a professor, said there was a possibility that life-giving materials could be universally supplied from space. This is one of the most important results in looking at the origin of life, said Hiroyuki Kurokawa, specially appointed associate professor of planetary science at Tokyo Institute of Technology.