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Researchers at the University of York have shown that molecules brought to earth in meteorite strikes could potentially be converted into the building blocks of DNA.

They found that organic compounds, called amino nitriles, the molecular precursors to amino acids, were able to use molecules present in interstellar ice to trigger the formation of the backbone molecule, 2-deoxy-D-ribose, of DNA.

It has long been assumed that amino acids were present on earth before DNA, and may have been responsible for the formation of one of the building blocks of DNA, but this new research throws fresh doubt on this theory.

Dr Paul Clarke, from the University of York's Department of Chemistry, said: "The origin of important biological molecules is one of the key fundamental questions in science. The molecules that form the building blocks of DNA had to come from somewhere; either they were present on Earth when it formed or they came from space, hitting earth in a meteor shower.

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