Ribose plays an important part in our human biology. It exists in our RNA molecules (ribonucleic acid), and delivers messages from our DNA to help build proteins for our bodies, according to the press release.
"It is noteworthy that a molecule as fragile ribose could be detected in such ancient material," said Jason Dworkin of NASA, a co-author of the study, in a press release.
The discovery of ribose also suggests that RNA changes before DNA, giving scientists a clearer picture of how life is formed.
DNA has long been considered a "template for life" – but RNA molecules have more capabilities, such as replication without the help of other molecules, according to the statement. The additional capabilities, combined with the fact that researchers have yet to find DNA sugars in meteorites, support the theory that "RNA combines the machinery of life before DNA."
"Research provides the first direct evidence of ribose in space and the delivery of sugar to the Earth, "said Yoshihiro Furukawa of The Tohoku University of Japan, the study's lead author, in a press release. "Extraterrestrial sugar may have contributed to the formation of RNA in the prebiotic Earth possibly leading to the origin of life."
Of course, it is possible that meteorites were contaminated with life on Earth – but testing found evidence that this was not likely, and that the sugars probably originated in space.
Today, researchers will continue to study meteorites to see how much these sugars are and how they may have influenced life on Earth. the study adds to a growing list of evidence that meteorites can lead to terrestrial life. Last January, researchers discovered that two meteorites were holding other substances for life: amino acids, hydrocarbons, other organic matter, and traces of water that could establish the earliest days of our solar system.