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Scientists has crated self-replicating Molecules so that they can discover how life begins.
They have made an entirely new type of genetic replication system, providing molecules that can, in effect, self-replicate.
One of the most persuasive arguments related to how life begins in the oceans is based on RNA, which is effectively a particular strand of DNA. Similarly, to DNA, RNA is made up of individual base pairs and can contain genetic information. It is thought that these molecules may be the precursor to DNA, and formed in deep-sea vents at the bottom of the oceans.
So, scientists, for the first time, claim that they have been able to develop a ribozyme that can replicate folded strands, including itself. This is an important step towards understanding how the first life emerged in the oceans all those billions of years ago from just a blend of different molecules.
“We found a solution to the RNA replication paradox by re-thinking how to approach the problem – we stopped trying to mimic existing biology and designed a completely new synthetic strategy,” said Dr Philipp Holliger, co-author of the paper published in eLife. “It is exciting that our RNA can now synthesise itself.”
Strands of RNA are usually replicated by adding single base pairs one at a time. But the researchers tweaked this, to see what would happen if the ribozymes added three base pairs at a time instead. And the finding was really impressive.
While adding a single base pair made it impossible for the ribozyme to duplicate a folded piece of RNA, if the ribozyme was adding base pairs three at a time, the triplet would bond so tightly to the RNA it would begin to force it to unfurl, allowing it to be copied. This means that the ribozyme can replicate itself, thus solving the paradox, explained IFLScience.
While the researchers conducted this experiment at -7°C (19°F) to concentrate the RNA, now they would like to explore whether they can achieve the same effect in a more chemically diverse mix, more similar to what the oceans would have been like when life began.