The building blocks for life on Earth may have actually come from outer space, according to a new discovery by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Scientists found a number of organic molecules in samples from the asteroid Ryugu, collected in 2019. The molecules include uracil, a building block for RNA, as well as niacin, which is important to metabolism, ScienceAlert writes. "These molecules on Ryugu were recovered in a pristine extraterrestrial setting," said lead author of the study Yasuhiro Oba of Hokkaido University. "It was directly sampled on the asteroid Ryugu and returned to Earth, and finally to laboratories without any contact with terrestrial contaminants."
RNA is used by cells to send genetic information and niacin helps to energize living organisms, Reuters explains. "The discovery of biologically relevant molecules such as nucleobases in the most pristine extraterrestrial materials without any terrestrial contaminations guarantees that they are really present in extraterrestrial environments," said Oba. "Other biological molecules were found in the sample as well, including a selection of amino acids, amines and carboxylic acids, which are found in proteins and metabolism, respectively," he adds.
The discovery suggests that the necessary compounds for creating life may have been "delivered to the early Earth," per the report in the journal Nature Communications. "I cannot say the presence of such ingredients directly leads to the emergence/presence of extraterrestrial life," Oba commented. "But at least their components such as amino acids and nucleobases may be present everywhere in space."