Researchers from the Rutgers University group called ENIGMA (Evolution of Nanomachines in Geospheres and Microbial Ancestors) will analyse the earliest evolution of processes that would improve the understanding of the origins of life.
"All life on Earth depends on the movement of electrons; life literally is electric. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out water vapor and carbon dioxide, and in that process we transfer hydrogen atoms, which contain a proton and an electron, to oxygen to make water (H20). We move electrons from the food we eat to the oxygen in the air to derive energy. Every organism on Earth moves electrons to generate energy," Paul G. Falkowski, ENIGMA principal investigator and professor at Rutgers University said in an interview.
The ENIGMA team think that hydrogen was probably one of the most abundant gases in the early Earth that supported life.
#RutgersResearch: Looking to the stars, @NASA has funded a #Rutgers-led team of scientists called ENIGMA to research the origins of life. Read more about the team's work: https://t.co/lQYMODCNFH #RutgersImpact #RutgersDelivers pic.twitter.com/QJg2wfGFY0— Rutgers University (@RutgersU) June 6, 2018
Dr. Falkowski explains that amino acids were delivered to Earth by meteorites and some of them could have been coupled together and made protein nanomachines before life began.
"Each time we take a breath, an enzyme in every cell allows you to transfer electrons to oxygen. Enzymes, like all proteins, are made up of amino acids, of which there are 20 that are used in life," he said.
The ENIGMA team have been granted $6million to discover whether the so-called protein nanomachines occupied Earth and potentially other planets before evolution of life there.