The long-sought ingredient that may have helped gene-like strands to copy themselves in puddles for the first time ever, billions of years ago when Earth was devoid of life, has been found by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Their novel discoveries add to a growing body of evidence that suggests first life may have evolved with relative ease, here and possibly elsewhere in the universe.
For generations, scientists pursuing an answer performed experiments in water but hit a wall.
Georgia Tech researchers Christine He and Isaac Gállego overcame it by adding an off-the-shelf viscous solvent (the thickener). In separate experiments with DNA then RNA, the copying process proceeded.
“The problem is a problem in water, which everybody sort of looks at in prebiotic (pre-life) chemistry,” said graduate research assistant He. She felt it was time to rethink that, and her expertise in chemical engineering helped.[The method] produced an encouraging surprise. The DNA and RNA strands folded onto themselves forming shapes called hairpins.
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