June 17, 2008

Early Genes Might Have Come From the Stars

A British-led study has confirmed for the first time that an important component of early genetic material is extraterrestrial in origin.

The scientists from Imperial College London say an important component of early genetic material found in meteorite fragments suggests parts of the raw materials to make the first molecules of DNA and RNA might have come from the stars.

The scientists, from Europe and the United States, said the materials they found include the molecules uracil and xanthine, which are precursors to the molecules that make up DNA and RNA, and are known as nucleobases. The team discovered the molecules in rock fragments of the Murchison meteorite, which crashed in Australia in 1969.

The details of the research are published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.