Feb 21, 2019 | Updated: 08:27 AM EST

Biologists Try To Decode the Possible Building Blocks of Alien Life

Apr 24, 2017 12:32 PM EDT


Researchers from the Valparaiso University in Indiana analyzed how amino acids can survive the harsh condition outside the earth. They expect to be able to see a new perspective to look into the alien life.

Amino acids are the basic compounds that build protein to support life form. Currently, there are 20 natural amino acids available in the genetic codes of most biological organism on Earth. However, there are hundreds of unnatural amino acids or non-proteinogenic, which could possibly become the basic building blocks of the alien life form.

The research is conducted by Claire Mammoser, an undergraduate research assistant at the Valparaiso University in Indiana under Professor Laura Rowe. Mammoser presented her research at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's Experimental Biology. The meeting is held from April 22 to 26 in Chicago.

In her research, she conducted the test to examine the stability of amino acids in the environment that mimic three extraterrestrial environments in our Solar System.Those environments are the ice caps of Mars, the Jupiter's moon Europa, and Saturn's moon Enceladus. She tested the amino acids under different variation of heat, cold, pH variation, UV radiation, based on the hypothetical environment of Mars, Europa and Enceladus, hoping to find the right amino acids that make a protein of the alien life forms.

"In a different extraterrestrial locale, the proteins in an organism would not necessarily be the same as that of an organism on Earth," Mammoser said as quoted by CNET. "They might use amino acids that are known to us but not used to make proteins on Earth."

A few decades before, in 1952, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey from University of Chicago had discovered a range of amino acids as vital organic compounds that became the origin of life on Earth. The landmark experiment of Miller and Urey showed that organic compounds can be synthesized from inorganic substances, and provide a solid foundation for Mammoser research. Watch the illustration of Miller-Urey experiment below:

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