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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2004 Dec;8(6):672-89.

Is there a common chemical model for life in the universe?

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Department of Chemistry, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7200, USA.


A review of organic chemistry suggests that life, a chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution, may exist in a wide range of environments. These include non-aqueous solvent systems at low temperatures, or even supercritical dihydrogen-helium mixtures. The only absolute requirements may be a thermodynamic disequilibrium and temperatures consistent with chemical bonding. A solvent system, availability of elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, certain thermodynamic features of metabolic pathways, and the opportunity for isolation, may also define habitable environments. If we constrain life to water, more specific criteria can be proposed, including soluble metabolites, genetic materials with repeating charges, and a well defined temperature range.

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