If you follow science news, that could be the headline on a story from the research world at least once a month. This time it’s scientists at the University of York and the University of Nottingham who claim the mantle of having deployed their own intelligent design to help explain how life originated without recourse to intelligent design.
Organic chemists at the University of York have made a significant advance towards establishing the origin of the carbohydrates (sugars) that form the building blocks of life.
A team led by Dr Paul Clarke in the Department of Chemistry at York have re-created a process which could have occurred in the prebiotic world.
Working with colleagues at the University of Nottingham, they have made the first step towards showing how simple sugars — threose and erythrose — developed. The research is published in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry.
“Origins of Life Clues Revealed by Sugar Study,” as the Huffington Post told its readers.
Dr. Clarke elaborated:
We are trying to understand the chemical origins of life. One of the interesting questions is where carbohydrates come from because they are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. What we have achieved is the first step on that pathway to show how simple sugars — threose and erythrose — originated. We generated these sugars from a very simple set of materials that most scientists believe were around at the time that life began.
In DNA, sugars and phosphates form the backbone on which base pairs are strung, spelling out the language of life. To imagine that generating sugars brings you a step closer to understanding how biological information was generated at the origin of life is like saying you’ve derived tannic acid from oak galls and now you’re a step closer to explaining the genius of J.S. Bach since, after all, he composed his scores using oak gall ink.