Meteors, Alien Amino Acids & …An Organ Transplant?

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Welcome! To the twilight zone.

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Now we go from the interesting to the completely fascinating and the point where it’s kinda strange.

Remember when I said that there are more amino acids in existence other than the 20 that can be coded by our DNA?

Sure you didn’t.

These are known as the Non-proteinogenic amino acids. There are 140 that scientists have discovered so far and they can be found in the cell walls of bacteria,chemically synthesized and have been found in meteors that crashed into the earth (78 of 140 have been discovered from crashes). That may be enough to set your interest (and possibly Paranoia) levels at least a tad higher than usual.
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In March, 2009, researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., reported the discovery of an excess of the left-handed form of the amino acid isovaline in samples of meteorites that came from carbon-rich asteroids.

photo of a carbon-rich meteorite analyzed in the study. Credit: Antarctic Meteorite Laboratory/NASA Johnson Space Center

photo of a carbon-rich meteorite analyzed in the study. Credit: Antarctic Meteorite Laboratory/NASA Johnson Space Center

 

Gasp! This hints that perhaps the L-conformation that natural amino acids prefer, may have started out in space, where conditions in asteroids were ideal for the L-amino acids’ formation.

It’s been suggested that meteorite impacts could have supplied material abundant in L molecules, to Earth. The tendency towards the L conformation would have remained as this material merged with evolving life (Nasa.gov 2011).

These unnatural amino acids have many applications in pharmacology especially in the creation of antibiotics and cancer research. For example, 2-Amino-oleic Acid, is used as tissue treatment in Bio-synthetic heart valve transplant to prevent calcification in transplanted tissues

References:

  • Meierhenrich, Uwe J, Guillermo M Mu\~Noz Caro, Jan Hendrik Bredeh\”Oft, Elmar K Jessberger and Wolfram H-P Thiemann. “Identification of diamino acids in the Murchison meteorite.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101, no. 25 (2004): 9182–9186
  • Nasa.gov. “NASA – More Asteroids Could Have Made Life’s Ingredients.” 2011. http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/left_hand_aminoacids.html

Contributors: Le Frenchie, Roi (editor)

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