All life on earth ‘may have come from clay’

From Dailymail News UK : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2488467/Scientists-believe-beginnings-CLAY.html

All life on earth ‘may have come from clay’

All life on earth may have come from clay according to new scientific research, just as the Bible, Koran and even Greek mythology have been suggesting for thousands of years.

The latest theory is that clay – which is basically a combination of minerals in the ground – acts as a breeding laboratory for tiny molecules and chemicals which is “absorbs like a sponge”.

The process takes billions of years, during which the chemicals react to each other to form proteins, DNA and, eventually, living cells, scientists told the journal Scientific Reports.

Biological Engineers from Cornell University’s department for Nanoscale Science in New York state believe clay ‘might have been the birthplace of life on Earth.’

It is a theory dating back thousands of years in many cultures, though perhaps not using the same scientific explanation. In religious texts from ancient Egypt to Chinese legends, God moulds clay into the shape of man and then breathes life into him through his nostrils.

Even Genesis talks of man being born from dust and returning to dust when he dies, with scholars translating this from the ancient Hebrew as also meaning clay or the earth itself.

In seawater, clay forms a hydrogel – a mass of tiny spaces which soak up other minerals, chemicals and tiny molecules from its surrounding area.

Professor Dan Luo of Cornell said: “In early geological history clay hydrogel provided a confinement function for biomolecules and biochemical reactions.

“Over billions of years, chemicals confined in those spaces could have carried out the complex reactions that formed proteins, DNA and eventually all the machinery that makes a living cell work.”

The conclusions are based on experiments by the researchers using synthetic hydrogels, adding DNA, amino acids and enzymes and simulating the production of proteins.

While it may be one theory on the creation of life on Earth, it may also have modern and moneysaving applications for drug manufacturing.

The report added: “Why consider clay? It’s dirt cheap. Better yet, it turned out unexpectedly that using clay enhanced protein production.”

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