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Basic life processes proven to be four billion years old

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At least twenty-nine of the basic cellular processes that make life possible in any organism including man have been shown to be reproducible in the laboratory. This is the first proof that the basics of life could have developed independently of each other. The research was made public by scientists from the University of Cambridge in the April 25, 2014, edition of the journal Molecular Systems Biology.

The researchers conducted two sets of experiments and found that the common factor for the initiation of life processes is ferrous iron. Ferrous iron is iron oxide and is represented by the chemical symbol FeO and is known to have been a component of the oldest water environments on Earth. Ferrous iron acted as a catalyst for the development of the basic life processes that produce cellular metabolism and life as we know it.

The researchers conducted one set of tests at temperatures that simulate the ocean environment around the hydrothermal vents of ocean volcanoes. The chemical reactions that made the basic building blocks of life would be accelerated by the temperatures of 50 to 90 degrees Centigrade that is found around hydrothermal vents. Present day life processes could not operate at these temperatures although some life forms do thrive in hydrothermal vents around ocean volcanoes.

The researchers also produced the majority of basic life processes at normal temperatures. The presence of ribose 5-phosphate as a product of the low temperature water reactions indicates that RNA could have been produced prior to any actual living cell. Lipids and amino acids were also the result of the proper combination of reactants and iron.

This is the first laboratory proof that vital life processes could have developed before life itself. The experiments indicate a possibility of life from other worlds populating Earth was not necessary. The randomness of having the right set of chemicals in the same place for a given process to have developed could be considered to be a function of time and ocean currents. It only took a little less than four billion years for life to appear on Earth.