Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The hunt for alien life forms, on Earth and beyond

Thermophiles, a type of extremophile, produce some of the bright colors of grand Prismatic Springs in Yellowstone National Park. Extremophiles may provide clues about how life formed in the extreme environmental conditions of early Earth. (Photo by Jim Peaco, National Park Service.)

Emily Conover attended the session at the recent annual meeting of the AAAS on "Searching for Alternative Chemistries of Life," co-organized by Emory chemist David Lynn. She wrote about the session's panel discussion for Science Magazine. Below is an excerpt from her article:

"Rather than searching for new forms of life on Earth or in the stars, other scientists study the question from the bottom up, looking for possible precursors of life. Chemist David Lynn of Emory University in Atlanta points out that misfolded proteins—like the those implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's—show some similarities to life, namely that they can generate diversity in the different ways that they fold, and can undergo chemical evolution, in which those folded proteins are selected not genetically, but chemically. Such precursors could form complex chemical networks, which might be the foundation of radically different life elsewhere in the universe."

Read the whole article in Science.

Peptides may hold a 'missing link' to life
Chemists boldly go in search of 'little green molecules'

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