Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not-quite-life created in lab

Life as we know it, even simple life, requires RNA and DNA to "run" an organism. Scientists have never succeeded in getting any form of these molecules to replicate or evolve.
They have now.
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., created RNA molecules that replicate, mutate, and compete, with the "fittest" molecules crowding out those less well equipped. Gerald Joyce and Tracey Lincoln are insistent that they have not created life, but they have created matter that "has some life-like properties, and that was extremely interesting." Self-replicating RNA molecules are thought to have been predecessors to DNA.

COMMENT: This does not mean we are on the verge of creating living matter from nonliving matter - DNA is a huge step from RNA. It does move us closer to that possibility, as well as giving us a look back in time billions of years to the "primordial soup" (whatever and wherever that really was.) It does make sense that, as with human cloning, we should get some regulations in place (an international agreement, preferably) on what limits we as a species place on our ever-expanding power to create.

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