News Release 

Extraterrestrial biologically important sugars

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers report the presence of ribose and other sugars in meteorites, suggesting that biologically important sugars can form in space and that the arrival of such sugars on Earth may have contributed to the formation of the earliest biopolymers. Sugars are essential elements of biological systems, and extraterrestrial samples have been found to contain amino acids and other biological building blocks. Yoshihiro Furukawa and colleagues analyzed 3 carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, including the Murchison meteorite that landed in Australia. Ribose, a foundational component of RNA, was detected in the meteorites, as well as other biologically important sugars. Isotopic analysis suggested that the sugars were extraterrestrial in origin and not the result of terrestrial contamination. Using laboratory experimental simulations to approximate the conditions under which such sugars could have formed in space, the authors concluded that the formose reaction, which produces sugars from aldehydes, may underlie the generation of such sugars. The mineral compositions suggest that the sugars may have been generated before or immediately after the formation of the asteroids from which the meteorites originated. According to the authors, prebiotic sugars, including ribose, may have been delivered to an early Earth.


Article #19-07169: "Extraterrestrial ribose and other sugars in primitive meteorites," by Yoshihiro Furukawa et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Yoshihiro Furukawa, Tohoku University, Sendai, JAPAN; e-mail:

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