Proteins are considered essential elements for the development of living beings. And a theory about the origin of life says it was extraterrestrial. Therefore, finding a protein in a meteorite reinforces that theory. Maybe it did reach Earth from another place in space. That is thought, now that the first non-terrestrial protein was found.
Harvard researchers, in collaboration with others from Plex Corporation and Bruker Scientific LLC, claim to have found it. In previous research, organic materials, sugars and some other molecules were found. All considered amino acid precursors. They were found in both meteorites and comets. Fully formed amino acids have also been found in comets and meteorites.
Never found before
But until now, no proteins had been found inside an extraterrestrial object. The new study was published in arXiv. The researchers provide evidence of the discovery of a protein called hemolithin within the Acfer 086 meteorite. This was found in Algeria in 1990.
The hemolytin protein found by the researchers was small. It was composed mainly of glycine and amino acids. It also had atoms of oxygen, lithium and iron at its ends, an arrangement never seen before. The team document has not yet been peer reviewed. But if the findings are confirmed, their discovery will add another piece to the puzzle surrounding the development of life on Earth.
Chemists consider proteins to be quite complex. That implies that many things would have to happen by chance for protein formation. In order for hemolithin to form naturally in the configuration found, glycine would be required to form first. Maybe on the surface of space dust grains. Thus the process of the first protein of non-terrestrial origin could be initiated.
After that, heat by means of molecular clouds could have induced glycine units to begin to bond in polymer chains. These, at some point, could evolve into fully formed proteins, reports Science X Network.
The researchers point out that the clusters of atoms at the tips of the protein form an iron oxide that has been seen in previous research to absorb photons. And that is a means to divide water into oxygen and hydrogen. This would produce a source of energy that would also be necessary for the development of life.
And who knows if that was precisely what ignited the spark of life. Millions of years ago.