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Laboratory synthesis of ATP, adenosine triphosphate, marking a major break-through in the investigation of the origin of life, was announced Sunday by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The experimental results have just been published in the British journal Nature by Carl Sagan, assistant professor of Astronomy and a member of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and by Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma and Miss Ruth Mariner of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
ATP is the major source of chemical energy for living organisms and differs in only one atom of phosphorous from a building block of the genetic code-carrier DNA.
Sagan synthesized the molecule by shining ultraviolet light on a solution of compounds comparable to those found in the Earth's primitive oceans about four billion years ago. Unlike today, ultraviolet light probably reached the primitive Earth unhindered by a dense atmosphere. If this was the case, organisms obtained most of their energy directly from the sun, instead of from photosynthesis or a break-down of food as organisms must do today.
This experiment sheds much light on the nature and origin of life on Earth and on the possibility of life on other planets by showing the dependence on outside energy sources of primitive organisms
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