Pyrophosphite’s Possible Role In Abiogensis

A new clue as to how life first arose:

“It’s a chicken and egg question,” said Dr Terry Kee of the University of Leeds, who led the research. “Scientists are in disagreement over what came first — replication, or metabolism. But there is a third part to the equation — and that is energy.”

“You need enzymes to make ATP and you need ATP to make enzymes,” explained Dr Kee. “The question is: where did energy come from before either of these two things existed? We think that the answer may lie in simple molecules such as pyrophosphite which is chemically very similar to ATP, but has the potential to transfer energy without enzymes.”

The key to the battery-like properties of both ATP and pyrophosphite is an element called phosphorus, which is essential for all living things. Not only is phosphorus the active component of ATP, it also forms the backbone of DNA and is important in the structure of cell walls.

The findings, published in the journal Chemical Communications, are the first to suggest that pyrophosphite may have been relevant in the shift from basic chemistry to complex biology when life on earth began. Since completing this research, Dr Kee and his team have found even further evidence for the importance of this molecule and now hope to team up with collaborators from NASA to investigate its role in abiogenesis.

Read more about the research.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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