Deep sea vents, where hot mineral-rich water erupts from the ocean floor, have long been considered as sites where life originated. Now Japanese scientists have built an artificial deep-sea vent to create building blocks for life. A team led by Koichiro Matsuno at the University of Technology in Nagaoka, Japan, constructed a model vent to see if it could yield the simple molecules needed to get life started. The artificial vent consists of a reactor where water is heated to between 110C to 350C in one chamber. In another chamber water is cooled to near freezing point and is then sent to the heating chamber, just as sea water flows through the circulation system of a deep-sea vent. Thereafter, amino acid glycine is added to the system. When they sampled the water as it passed through the artificial vent, they found that the amino acid molecules had combined to form peptides, compounds in which two or more amino acids are linked together.
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