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Research into understanding the origins -and evolution- of life has long been dominated by the concept of taking clues from extant biology and extrapolating its molecules and pathways backwards in time. This approach has also guided the search for solutions to the problem of how contemporary biomolecules would have arisen directly from prebiotic chemistry on early earth. However, the continuing difficulties in finding universally convincing solutions in connecting prebiotic chemistry to biological chemistry should give us pause, and prompt us to rethink this concept of treating extant life's chemical processes as the sole end goal and, therefore, focusing only -and implicitly- on the respective extant chemical building blocks. Rather, it may be worthwhile "to set aside the goal" and begin with what would have been plausible prebiotic reaction mixtures (which may have no obvious or direct connection to life's chemical building blocks and processes) - and allow their chemistries and interactions, under different geochemical constraints, to guide and illuminate as to what processes and systems can emerge. Such a conceptual approach gives rise to the prospect that chemistry of life-as-we-know-it is not the only result (not a "destiny"), but one that has emerged among many potential possibilities (a "destination"). This postulate, in turn, could impact the way we think about chemical signatures and criteria used in the search for alternative and extraterrestrial "life". As a bonus, we may discover the chemistries and pathways naturally that led to the emergence of life as we know it.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)
Research in origins of life is an intrinsically multi-disciplinary field, aimed at finding answers to the formidably complex problem of understanding the emergence of life from the modern versions of ...
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