Life originated on Earth 4 bln yrs ago in form of first self-replicating molecules

May 14th, 2009 - 1:47 pm ICT by ANI  

London, May 14 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have developed an experiment demonstrating how life originated on the Earth about 4 billion years ago in the form of the very first self-replicating molecules.

According to a report in The Independent, the research was done by John Sutherland and colleagues at Manchester University, UK.

They have broken new ground by being able to synthesize almost from scratch two of the four building blocks of RNA, the self-replicating molecule that many scientist believe to be the most likely contender for the original molecule of life.

Dr Sutherland believes that he has shown how it was possible to make all the building blocks of RNA from the simple chemicals that would have existed on Earth 4 billion years ago.

“We’ve made the building blocks of RNA from what was around on the early Earth and is still around in interstellar space and in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan,” Dr Sutherland said.

“We haven’t yet made the RNA molecule itself but we’ve made two of the four sub-units or building blocks. It suggests that making the molecule is possible. The building blocks are strung together and doing that is actually easier than making the building blocks themselves,” he said.

RNA is the less familiar cousin of DNA, the genetic blueprint of life. Like DNA, the RNA molecule can carry and transmit information from one generation to the next.

But unlike DNA, RNA is a relatively simple molecule that many scientists believed could have been quite easy to synthesize in the harsh environment of the early Earth.

Scientists first proposed that RNA preceded proteins in the 1960s, but it was not until the 1980s that they received strong support for the idea.

Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado and Sidney Altman at Yale, found that RNA could act as a catalyst by speeding up a chemical reaction and yet being unchanged in the process - a feat normally reserved for enzymes.

This was the first hard evidence that RNA, a molecule that can replicate and store genetic information, could also have triggered the first synthesis of life’s proteins.

Most scientists now believe that there was an “RNA world” early in the Earth’s history from which all present-day life is ultimately descended. (ANI)

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