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Scientists Discover New Clue to Chemical Origins of Life

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 at York has re-created a process which could have occurred in the prebiotic world.  They have made the first step towards showing how simple sugars -- threose and erythrose -- developed.   All biological molecules have an ability to exist as left-handed forms or right-handed forms. All sugars in biology are made up of the right-handed form of molecules and yet all the amino acids that make up the peptides and proteins are made up of the left-handed form. The researchers found using simple left-handed amino acids to catalyse the formation of sugars resulted in the production of predominately right-handed form of sugars. It could explain how carbohydrates originated and why the right-handed form dominates in nature.
Science Daily, Jan. 24, 2012
Laurence Burroughs, et al.
Asymmetric organocatalytic formation of protected and unprotected tetroses under potentially prebiotic conditions. 
Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry, 2012; DOI: 10.1039/C1OB06798B

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