Closer to discovering the origin of human life? Vitamin B3 found on an asteroid

Closer to discovering the origin of human life?  Vitamin B3 found on an asteroid

Samples brought back from the Ryugu asteroid to Earth continue to reveal its composition. Now scientists have found vitamin B3 and uracil, which is one of the building blocks needed to make RNA.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 mission collected dust and gas samples at two locations on Ryugu and returned them to Earth in December 2020. New results of the analysis of the samples are published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

Analyzes by a Japanese team detected urachlium, niacin (vitamin B3) and other organic molecules considered important for the synthesis of other complex organic molecules.

These findings suggest, according to the authors, that nucleobases, like uracil, have an extraterrestrial origin and arrived on Earth through carbon-rich meteorites, which could lead to the appearance of life.

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“Scientists have previously found nucleobases and vitamins in certain carbon-rich meteorites, but there was always the question of contamination from exposure to the terrestrial environment”, explained Yasuhiro Oba, coordinator of the study at the University of Hokkaido (Japan).

Since the Hayabusa2 spacecraft collected two samples directly from the asteroid and brought them to Earth in sealed capsules, “contamination can be ruled out,” he said.

Uracil is one of the units that make up RNA. the molecules that contain the instructions for building and running living organisms; niacin is an important cofactor for metabolism in living organisms.

In the samples he found urachlium in small amounts, in the range of 6-32 parts per billion; while vitamin B3 was more abundant, in the range of 49-99 parts per billion, in addition to other biological molecules, “including a selection of amino acids, amines, and carboxylic acids, found in protein and metabolism, respectively.” Oba pointed out.

The authors suggest that these compounds could have been generated by photochemical reactions in interstellar ice, which subsequently led to their incorporation into asteroids as the solar system formed.

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UV rays and cosmic radiation could have further altered them over millions of years.

The detected compounds they are similar but not identical to those previously discovered in carbon-rich meteorites.

This discovery adds to the evidence that “important building blocks for life are created in space and could have reached Earth via meteorites”, Hokkaido University said in a statement.

The team believes that the difference in concentrations in the two samples, collected from locations other than Ryugu, is likely due to exposure to the extreme environments of space.

They also hypothesized that nitrogen-containing compounds formed, at least in part, from simpler molecules such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide.

Although they were not detected in the Ryugu samples, known to be present in cometary iceand this comet could have originated as a comet or other parent body that would have been present in low-temperature environments.

In addition to the samples from Ryugu, those obtained from the asteroid Bennu by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission are expected to reach Earth this year, so a comparative study of the composition of both will provide more data to substantiate these theories. .


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