Christmas and New Year's is a time when many people think about birth or rebirth and some think deeper--even more philosophically about how life first started on earth.
The complexity of life has always bothered me. Helical DNA molecules are a fairly complex structure and I always wondered if there could have been a proto-genesis stage to life…ie what where the steps before the creation of DNA and RNA on Earth?
We are now getting some strands of evidence (pun intended) that suggests what came before DNA and RNA. One explanation is the primordial soup theory. According to Wikipedia, the primordial sea, or primordial ocean, is a term applied collectively to the oceans of the earth at a very early time in its history, either the time before or during the development of multi-cellular life forms (i.e., during the Precambrian), or alternatively before the development of the first land-based life forms (i.e. during the early Paleozoic). The term primordial ooze (or primordial or prebiotic soup), refers to a particular set of models of the origin of life.
One hypothesis has been the notion of spontaneous self-assembly of basic amino acids to form simple strands of DNA. This was recently in the news with the announcement amino acids can self-assemble under curtain conditions. However, this seems too random and uncertain to be constantly reproduced to create life.
Carbon is one of the most abundant atoms on earth. Most people will recognize two forms of basic carbon; charcoal or graphite (the lead in your pencil)and diamonds. The third form of carbon (discovered in the 1980’s) is C60 or Fullerenes or Buckyballs, named after Buckminster Fuller, the designer of the geodesic dome at Expo 67 which resembles a 60 point soccer ball.Fullerene (C60, C70, etc.) was the third carbon allotrope discovered in 1985 (by H.W. Kroto, R.E. Smally, R.F. Curl; Nobel Prize in 1996), and since then, a great deal of attention has been focused on its physical-chemical and unique bio-medical properties. Fullerenes have been found in nature (in molasses - a waste byproduct of heating sugar cane), in candle soot and in impact craters of meteorites in Sudbury Ontario( formed both on impact and of extraterrestrial origins).
Fullerenes are also formed by lightening discharges, so imagine earth's atmosphere--a natural lightening factory producing fullerenes through millions of years.
So, could C60 Fullerenes have been the templates for very basic amino acids to form the first strands of life (DNA) in earth’s pre-mordial soup, millions of years ago?
This plausible hypothesis was proposed by Prof. Grigoriy Andrievsky in Sudak Crimea at the 7Th International Conference called Cosmos and the Biosphere, in the fall of 2007 in a paper entitled “Water Structures ordered [in a] specific manner as universal regulators of biological processes; what hydrated fullerenes-the symbiosis of cure carbon and water-have told [us]”.Andrievsky G.V. ISMA NAS Ukraine, STC 'Institute for Single Crystals', Kharkiv, Ukraine. Andrievsky points out the similarity between spherical fractal clusters of hydrated fullerenes (HyFn) (C60 and surrounding water clusters) and some of the most significant biological structures.Fullerenes have been found to mimic several biologically important structures such as clathrine cages, viral structures, and other structural (spatially) similar biological supra-(or sub)-molecular structures. He also suggests that the universalism of HyFn biological activity as the confirmation of hypothesis that C60 - H2O systems might be the matrix for primary biological matter (substance) formation (such as RNA or DNA).
“The wide range of HyFn positive biological activity can be determined by the quite eligible hypothesis that fullerenes and fullerene-like structures, conjoint with water molecules, could be the first natural matrices for the initial synthesis of pristine bio-molecules on earth. As a consequence, HyFn should not be foreign for living organisms and, thus, they should be capable of protecting and stabilizing the biological structures formed in nature and which exist in a hydrated state."
This was confirmed this week in a paper published in Chemical Physical Letters called Fullerene-Amino Acid Interactions. A Theoretical Study.by Aned de Leon, Abraham F.Jalbout and Vladimr A. Basiuk. In it, they explored the ability of the C60 fullerenes to interact with amino acids at the theoretical level. The calculations suggest that the most favorable interactions of the fullerene is with arginine, leucine, and tryptophan which is related to the backbone structure of the corresponding amino acids.