What Would Aliens Look Like? Scientists Want To Find Out By Testing Building Blocks Of Life

First Posted: Apr 25, 2017 06:39 AM EDT

If humans find extraterrestrial life on Mars, on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn or even in exoplanets beyond the Solar System, then in all likelihood the first signs of aliens will be in microbial form. At least, that is what scientists believe. However, what would the extraterrestrial microbial life look like? This is the question that researcher Claire Mammoser from Indiana’s Valparaiso University wants to address with a new study.

The researcher explained how unnatural amino acids may form the basis of yet-to-be-discovered forms of life at the recently held 2017 Experimental Biology Conference in Chicago. Mammoser and her colleagues are probing amino acids that are the building blocks of life under extreme conditions to find answers. Amino acids are organic compounds based on amine and carboxyl molecules, which are the fundamental building blocks of proteins and are in turn the basis of all life found on the planet Earth.

According to Cosmos Magazine, a long-standing belief among scientists is that the most likely types of alien life would have its roots in a similar amino-acid-protein system like that found on Earth. However, it is not necessary that an extraterrestrial system would use the same building blocks of life alone or in combination as those found on this planet. Mammoser also added that alien life might use amino acids that are known to humans but which are not used to make proteins on the planet.

Mammoser has tested 15 amino acids to see if they can withstand the environment of other celestial worlds, by subjecting the amino acids to extreme variations in temperature, pH and gamma and ultraviolet radiation. Furthermore, the research team will soon test amino acid actually extracted from meteorites to see if they can play a role in alien life.

“Our main goal with this research is to see if there are structural characteristics of some amino acids that lead to a higher stability in extraterrestrial conditions,” Mammoser said, according to a Science Daily report.

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