Space Sugar

During recent experiments, scientists realized that parts of DNA could be made in space. They were able to recreate 2-deoxyribose which is the main building block of DNA, and they were able to accomplish this by hitting ice with radiation under cosmic conditions. This new finding reopens the discussion about the possibility that the building blocks of DNA came to Earth from outer-space.

It also tells us that this can occur anywhere in space, or anywhere in our galaxy to be exact.


The way the scientists achieved this is by cooling ice made of frozen water and methanol at about -260 degrees Celsius inside a vacuum chamber. Later, they blasted that ice with ultra-violet rays. This mimics conditions found in an interstellar cloud. As the scientists warmed the irradiated ices, this simulated the same process that happens when a young star is being born. The researchers then analyzed the ice and identified 2-deoxyribose. They also found other sugars that they were already able to create in previous experiments.

Other experiments that were able to create ribose, the sugar that makes up RNA, revealed that sugars might also be formed from formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has previously been found in comets. The issue is that these reactions always created sugars that contain multiple oxygen molecules and not deoxyribose. The recent experiment suggests that deoxyribose is formed by using a different kind of mechanism.

Simple deoxy sugars have previously been found in meteorite and comet samples, unlike deoxyribose. These findings suggest that deoxyribose can form in space but is not stable enough to last in the rocks that formed the planets.

At this time there are two missions, the Hayabusa 2 from Japan and OSIRIS-REx from NASA that are trying to find evidence why this is the case.

The idea is that the missions will bring back rocks from outer-space and that scientists will then check them for traces of deoxyribose.

Editor's Picks

There are very few people on this planet who enjoy their work more than Aner Banner. His friends often readily admit that Aner eats, sleeps, and breaths science 24 hours a day. He is always challenging old methods, proposing new ideas, and seeking to solve difficult problems. Aner spends most of the day imparting his wisdom to the young minds of a small elementary school. Thankfully he has also mastered the art of making science come alive for the future leaders of our nation. He is loved and well respected by students, parents, and faculty alike. His motto forever remains “never stop learning.

reset password

Back to
log in