Saturday, August 29, 2009

Possible types of Alien Lifeforms (Part 1: Mirror Life)

On Earth, life uses what is called right-handed DNA. Right-handed DNA uses left-handed amino acids, sometimes described as homochiral. The fact that all lifeforms on Earth use Right-handed DNA kinda suggests that all life here is descendant from a common group of ancestors.

Mirror life is a type of lifeform that uses the same type of DNA structure, but where the DNA is left-handed. This type of life, in turn, used right-handed amino acids.

Why does the difference matter? If single cell members of mirror life (with left-handed DNA) are placed in a nutrient broth consisting of only left-handed amino acids, the lifeforms will not be able to thrive. The same is true of the reverse.

The possibly that life on other worlds may be mirror life is very exciting. If found, it would lend tremendous evidence that life is possible in other forms as well.

Reference: "Are Aliens Among Us?" by Paul Davies, Scientific American December 2007

Related articles

No comments: