Where on Earth did life start?

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Washington, Aug 7 (ANI): Scientists are exploring the truth behind the hypothesis that 'life began between mica sheets'.

According to the "life between the sheets" mica hypothesis proposed by Helen Hansma of the University of California, Santa Barbara, life originated with molecules that lay between mica sheets.

Provided with the right physical and chemical environment in the structured compartments to survive and evolve, the molecules eventually reorganized into cells, while still sheltered between mica sheets.

Also, mica could have provided enough isolation for molecules to evolve without being disturbed and still allow molecules to migrate towards one another and eventually bond together to form large organic molecules.

Mica sheets are held together by potassium. And that could account for the high levels of potassium currently found in human cells.

The endless supply of energy from waves and the sun could have pushed the mica sheets into up-and-down motions; packing the molecules together and helping them bond.

Mica surfaces are also conducive to all the major classes of large biological molecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and fats.

"Mica sheets are atomically flat, so we can see DNA molecules on the mica surface without having to cover the DNA with something that makes it look bigger and easier to see," said Hansma.

"Sometimes we can even see DNA molecules swimming on the surface of mica, under water, in the AFM. Mica sheets are so thin (one nanometer) that there are a million of them in a millimeter-thick piece of mica," she added.

Hansma says that recent advancements in imaging techniques, including the AFM, made possible her recent research, leading to her "between mica sheets" hypothesis.

The research is published in the September 7, 2010 issue of Journal of Theoretical Biology. (ANI)

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