Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, May 15, 2009

No gods needed! - How RNA got started

Science News - May 13, 2009, by Solmaz Barazesh

Scientists identify chemical reactions that could be responsible for the origin of life.

Scientists may have figured out the chemistry that sparked the beginning of life on Earth.

The new findings map out a series of simple, efficient chemical reactions that could have formed molecules of RNA, a close cousin of DNA, from the basic materials available more than 3.85 billion years ago, researchers report online May 13 in Nature.

“This is a very impressive piece of work — a really excellent analysis,” comments chemist James Ferris of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

The new research lends support to the idea that RNA-based life-forms were the first step toward the evolution of modern life. Called the RNA world hypothesis, the idea was first proposed some 40 years ago. But until now, scientists couldn’t figure out the chemical reactions that created the earliest RNA molecules.

Today, DNA encodes the genetic blueprint for life — excluding some viruses, for those who consider viruses living — and RNA acts as an intermediary in the process, making protein from DNA. But most scientists think it’s unlikely that DNA was the basis of the origin of life, says study coauthor John Sutherland of the University of Manchester in England.

Information-bearing DNA holds the code needed to put proteins together, but at the same time, proteins catalyze the reactions that produce DNA. It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. Scientists don’t think that DNA and proteins could have come about independently — regardless of which came first — and yet still work together in this way.

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Random Stuff said...

To be fair, some god would still have to mix the compounds in a laboratory setting, make the other 2 bases and then assemble ~100,000 of them in the proper order.
This is experiment is a step in the that direction, but it is by no means the end-all-be-all of abiotic genesis.

Anonymous said...

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Barry Mahfood said...

To Random Stuff, Religious folk will continue to point out that science doesn't have all the answers, even though the stuff that can't be answered continues to diminish.