What is ethanolamine, the molecule in space that is key to deciphering the origin of life

  • Carlos Serrano (@carliserrano)
  • BBC News World

image source, GT


Many of the ingredients that made life on Earth possible are found in space.

How did life arise on Earth? Nobody knows, but knowing the ingredients that made this possible can give us valuable clues.

In a recent study, a group of Spanish researchers claimed to have discovered one of these components in space, very close to the center of Milky Way.

It’s about extension ethanolamine, which is a molecule present in Cell membrane For all living things this is now, for the first time, observed outside our planet.

“This can help us understand how it works The first cells on Earth“,” Victor M. Rivilla, one of the co-authors of the study developed by the Spanish Space Research Center (CAB), a Spanish government research center affiliated with NASA’s Institute of Astrobiology, told BBC Mundo.

image source, GT


Molecular clouds are places in space where new asteroids and planets form.

This discovery leaves open the possibility of the ingredients that make life possible Other places in the universe different from the land.

What is ethanolamine and what evidence does it give us the origin of life What do we know?

The main molecule of life

Ethanolamine is a molecule that contains four of the six chemical elements essential to life: Oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon.

image source, GT


Ethanolamine was found 100,000 light years from Earth.

“Understanding how these membranes form is an essential step in understanding them How are living things formed?Rivilla dice.

How did they find it?

Ethanolamine was previously discovered in meteorites, but it is not clear how it got there.

Now, with the help of two radio telescopes, Rivella and her colleagues have discovered ethanolamine in a molecular cloud found in 100,000 light years from Earth.

In space, particles vibrate and emit photons, which are particles of light.

image source, GT


Ethanolamine may have reached Earth with meteor showers.

“The way each molecule vibrates is like its signature,” Rivella says.

Thus, by detecting the path of the photon inside the cloud, the researchers observed that vibrations They were observing millions of ethanolamine molecules in that cloud at the center of the galaxy.

Because it is important?

The results of the research indicate that ethanolamine is present in molecular clouds in space, where they are formed. new stars and planets

image source, Keith Chambers/Science Photo Library


Ethanolamine is key to the formation of cell membranes.

So Rivella and his team’s conclusion is that ethanolamine may have been present in asteroids that are known to bombard Earth much earlier, billions of years ago.

In this way, the molecule can have Come to our planet from space, and once here it could be combined with other molecules that helped form more efficient and robust cell membranes that favored the evolution of the first organisms.

image source, GT


Elsewhere in the universe the ingredients for life can be found.

“Ethanolamine is one of the really complex molecules that has been discovered in space that are straightforward and undeniably related “Biology as we know it,” says Maguire, an astronomer and professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who was not involved in the research.

The fact that these fundamental particles exist in space suggests that, under the right conditions, they could give rise to life forms elsewhere in the universe.

“If the components of life are scattered throughout the universe, it is also possible that Life can arise anywhere Once the conditions are favorable, ”says astrochemist Sergio Iupolo, referring to this result, in an article on the portal inverse.

image source, GT


Scientists hope that as radio telescopes advance they can find more particles in space.

“Perhaps life is no exception, but rather an extra step in the has evolved of regions of space where stars are formed,” adds Ibolo, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in this study.

image source, GT


Researchers now want to find molecules linked to the genetic function of cells in space.

new questions

Rivella and his team already suspected that ethanolamine molecules might exist in deep space, because other molecules with a similar chemical structure had already been discovered before.

Now they already have the certainty that they are there, but the question that still lingers is How were they formed those particles.

This is the next task.

image source, GT


One of the big questions in science is how the molecules that make life possible were formed.

Through theoretical studies, chemical models and experiments that mimics the stellar medium, Rivella and her colleagues want to understand the origin of the ethanolamine molecules.

In addition, thanks to the fact that radio telescopes are becoming increasingly sensitive and sophisticated, they hope to discover other types of complex molecules that may have led to the formation of cell membranes, but also RNA and DNA containing genetic information; The proteins responsible for metabolism.

Assembling this spatial puzzle may be the key to understanding the origin of life‘ concludes Rivella.

You can now receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download and activate the new version of our app so you don’t miss our best content.

Lovell Loxley

"Alcohol buff. Troublemaker. Introvert. Student. Social media lover. Web ninja. Bacon fan. Reader."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top