Apr 7, 2006
US researchers are hoping to develop a simple analytical technique that could be used on future space missions to probe for signs of life. The technique will seek out signs of extraterrestrial chirality.
Some molecules exist in handed, or chiral, forms. A left-handed form and a right-handed form. The building blocks of proteins, the amino acids, for instance, are chiral, as too are the proteins they form and even the genetic material, DNA, that codes for the proteins. Chiral molecules can also be made synthetically, several drugs are produced in just the left or right-handed form for improved efficacy and to reduce side-effects.
Life elsewhere in the solar system could reveal itself through its chiral activities. Find out more in the April issue of David Bradley’s Spotlight on PSIgate the physical sciences site.