To determine how the Earth went from a lifeless rock to one teeming with life, Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology "have found one crucial clue: iron and RNA."
The team managed to re-create conditions of life on Earth 3 billion years ago and"revived" a function of RNA that may have subsided after the rise of DNA.
Life as we know it depends on the precise interplay of DNA, the double-helix molecular structure that safeguards genetic code, with RNA and proteins. But many scientists -- among them Francis Crick, who, with James Watson, discovered DNA -- have theorized that early life could have relied on RNA alone. The debate has been a chicken-and-egg affair for decades.
Researchers swayed by the RNA-first theory are intrigued by ribozymes, a type of RNA, discovered in the 1980s, that acts as an enzyme -- a role once thought to be exclusive to proteins. Its discovery was the beginning of a shift in the view that RNA was mostly a temporary replica of DNA that acted as a "messenger" to transfers genetic code. RNA's mysterious shape-shifting and complicated role has further increased scientists' curiosity about its evolution.
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