Life may have originated inside mineral mica layers in ancient oceans (Re-issue)

December 6th, 2007 - 1:19 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 6 (ANI): A new hypothesis by scientists has suggested that life may have originated inside layers of mineral mica in ancient oceans.
Developed by Helen Hansma, a research scientist with the University of California, the new theory proposes that the narrow confined spaces between the thin layers of mica could have provided exactly the right conditions for the rise of the first biomolecules effectively creating cells without membranes.
Hansma came upon her idea one day last spring when she was splitting some mica under her dissecting microscope. She had collected the specimens in a mica mine in Connecticut. The mica was covered with organic material.
“As I was looking at the organic crud on the mica, it occurred to me that this would be a good place for life to originate between these sheets that can move up and down in response to water currents which would have provided the mechanical energy for making and breaking bonds,” said Hansma.
“Some think that the first biomolecules were simple proteins, some think they were RNA, or ribonucleic acid,” said Hansma. “Both proteins and RNA (Ribonucleic acid) could have formed in between the mica sheets,” she added.
RNA plays an important part in translating the genetic code, and is composed of nitrogenous bases, sugar, and phosphates. RNA and many proteins and lipids in our cells have negative charges like mica. RNA’s phosphate groups are spaced one half nanometer apart, just like the negative charges on mica.
Mica layers are held together by potassium. The concentration of potassium inside the mica is very similar to the concentration of potassium in our cells. And the seawater that bathed the mica is rich in sodium, just like our blood.
The heating and cooling of the day to night cycle would have caused the mica sheets to move up and down, and waves would have provided a mechanical energy source as well, according to the new model. Both forms of movement would have caused the forming and breaking of chemical bonds necessary for the earliest biochemistry.
Thus the mica layers could have provided the support, shelter, and an energy source for the development of precellular life, while leaving artifacts in the structure of living things today.
“I picture all the molecules of early life evolving and rearranging among mica sheets in a communal fashion for eons before budding off with cell membranes and spreading out to populate the world,” said Hansma. (ANI)

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