Posted on Jan 20, 2009, 9 a.m.
Researchers have recreated a scenario that might have led to the origin of life, potentially unlocking the mystery of life's beginnings.
Scientists at Scripps Research Institute report that they have created molecules that self replicate, as well as have the ability to evolve and compete -- without the assistance of proteins or other cellular components. Moreover, as reported in www.livescience.com, they took their research an additional step further by mixing different replicated RNA enzymes with some of the raw material they were working with and allowed the enzymes to compete in a test tube. Some of the self-replicating enzymes bound to some of the raw material and mutated. As the scientists reported: “The resulting recombinant enzymes also were capable of sustained replication, with the most fit replicators growing in number to dominate the mixture.”
While the self-replicating RNA enzyme systems â€“ Immortalized RNA as it is known within the laboratory setting â€“ exhibit some characteristics of life, they are not life as we know it, stresses Professor Gerald Joyce, advisor to Scripps Research Institute Researcher Tracey Lincoln. In response to differing opinions as to whether this recreates a scenario that might have led to life's origins, he notes: “What we've found could be relevant to how life begins, at that key moment when Darwinian evolutions starts.” He stressed, however, that only when a system developed in the lab is able to evolve new functions completely on its own could that be considered life. “The molecules in Joyce's lab can't evolve any totally new tricks,” he notes.
News Release: Life as we know it nearly created in lab. www.livescience.com Strange News. January 11, 2009.