Monday, January 12, 2009

Immortalized RNA and the Origins of Life

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have synthesized self-replicating RNA from basic chemical components and demonstrated that nonidentical RNA molecules can compete for parts with fitter RNA replicators eventually dominating. Pretty stunning stuff - organization, replication, and evolution from simple chemicals. Study head Dr. Gerald Joyce is careful to say that these RNA replicators do not represent life. But this is an extraordinary glimpse of how life might have developed.

(image credit: artist depiction of "small RNAs", Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation, from livescience.com)