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New NASA study might solve the biggest mystery of life’s origins

Published Aug 17th, 2023 4:27PM EDT
Earth in space
Image: Tryfonov / Adobe

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Finding out more about the mysteries of life’s origins on Earth is important, especially as we try to find life beyond our solar system. A new bit of research could change everything, finally bridging how Earth went from being a lifeless marble to the teeming planet that we know today.

See, the journey to figure out how life began on Earth is somewhat experimental, mostly because we just don’t know how it happened. As such, researchers tend to take one of two approaches to it – a top-down view that looks at the origins of life on Earth based on modern animals and plants and a bottom-up approach that starts before life appears on the planet.

Both try to trace the evolutionary lines that have led our planet to become the teeming and ever-changing place that it is today, but neither ever really answered the question of how exactly the first particles of life came into existence. That big mystery of life’s origins could have finally been uncovered.

deep ocean with light coming in
The transport chains responsible for metabolism could have interacted with particles in Earth’s early oceans to create life. Image source: donfiore / Adobe

According to a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the same electron transport chains that power metabolism could be the connective tissue between the bottom-up and top-down approaches that scientists use to research the origins of life on Earth. These chains are the basic points used to transport enzymes, which makes them a perfect bridge in the evolutionary timeline of Earth’s first lifeforms.

“Understanding how these most basic biological systems first took shape will not only give us greater insight into how life works at the most fundamental level, but what life actually is in the first place and how we might look for it beyond Earth,” says Aaron Goldman, an Associate Professor of Biology at Oberlin College, in a statement on the research.

If true, the research gives us additional insight that could help us better understand how life formed on other planets, which NASA can no doubt use as it searches through the bowels of the cosmos for signs of life beyond our own.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.