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"Cell-like" structures created in interstellar ice
Posted: Wed, Jan 31, 2001, 2:46 PM ET (1946 GMT)
Scientists have managed to create complex organic compounds and even cell-like structures in icy materials like those that existed in the early history of the solar system, raising the possibility that the key building blocks for life on Earth came from outer space. After NASA Ames and UC Santa Cruz scientists exposed a mixture of ices like those found in dense interstellar clouds to strong ultraviolet light they discovered complex organic compounds as well as vesicles, or hollow cell-like structures. The scientists believe that such materials, which fell to Earth early in its history as comets and icy debris left over from the formation of the solar system collided with the Earth, may have provided the essential materials needed for life to start on Earth. "The delivery of these compounds could well have been critical to the origin of life on Earth," said Louis Allamandola, one member of the research team. Scientists stopped short, however, or endorsing the panspermia model that says the Earth was seeded by life from elsewhere, concluding instead that the materials formed in the ice could "jump-start" life on a hospitable planet like the Earth.
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