Turkish Physicist Furkan Ozturk Makes Groundbreaking Discovery on ‘Origin of Life’

Furkan Ozturk’s work opens up new possibilities for understanding the fundamental processes that initiated the formation of life and guiding “the search for extraterrestrial life”.

On the verge of completing his PhD in Physics at Harvard University, a young Turkish man has made a groundbreaking discovery about the origin of life on Earth, generating significant excitement among scientists.

Furkan Ozturk and his team’s research has been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Science Advances. They have made progress in understanding the origin of biological handedness. They propose that magnetic minerals on early Earth may have influenced the selection of one mirror-image form of biomolecules over the other.

In 1848, French chemist Louis Pasteur introduced the concept of homochirality, which explains that specific molecules necessary for life exist in mirror-image forms, just like the left and right hands.

However, despite 175 years of research, the origin of this property remained one of biology’s great mysteries.

Although more work is needed to unravel the mystery fully, scientists believe Ozturk’s discovery is a crucial step in understanding the fundamental processes that initiated the formation of life.

‘A real breakthrough’

The discovery, expected to provide insights into the origins of life on Earth and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, revolves around homochirality, which explains the preference for specific mirror-image forms of molecules in living organisms.

“It’s a real breakthrough. Homochirality is essential to get biology started, and this is possible—and I would say very likely – solution,” said Nobel laureate biochemist, Jack Szostak, according to the journal.

Ozturk, who earned a bachelor’s in physics at Bilkent University in the Turkish capital Ankara, has researched the origins of life for approximately two-and-a-half years at Harvard.

“We were looking for a physical interaction that could break chiral or mirror symmetry. Our studies revealed that magnetic minerals, which are abundantly found in nature and can be considered natural magnets, can lead to the breaking of this symmetry. Our experiments show that magnetic surfaces interact strongly with chiral molecules and that magnetism may have contributed to homochirality,” he said.

‘We begin to see first traces of life on Earth’

“Approximately 4 billion years ago, roughly 500 million years after the formation of the solar system and our Earth, we begin to see the first traces of life on Earth,” the 26-year-old physicist told Anadolu.

He added that his experimental studies aim to illuminate this mystery, which the Science journal recognised as one of the 125 most significant problems in the natural sciences.

He said about his discovery’s impact: “Our discovery sheds light on the origin of life, a central mystery in nature. It’s like solving a puzzle where we have limited evidence from 4 billion years ago. Our study contributes a significant piece to understanding life’s origin.

“Although we’re unsure how it all fits together, this discovery will help answer questions and provide clues about life’s beginnings. It could also offer insights into life on other planets. Understanding Earth’s life formation enhances our knowledge of conditions for life elsewhere. This knowledge guides the search for extraterrestrial life. Although certainty remains a challenge, it’s possible,” he added.

“The problem of the ‘origin of life’ is like a puzzle, and our results are a significant step towards solving a substantial part of this puzzle. We have opened a breach in the wall, and I believe more will come.”

Ozturk stated that he has earned praise from academics at Harvard and many other universities and a documentary was recently made about his discovery, apart from his work being highlighted in the scientific world through channels like Nature, Science, and others.

He also stated that renowned molecular biologist Matthew Meselson, who discovered how DNA is replicated, has commented on his work: “I’m glad I lived until the age of 93. Finally, I have seen the solution to this problem.”

Source: https://www.trtworld.com/turkiye/turkish-physicist-makes-groundbreaking-discovery-on-origin-of-life-13742519

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