Sidebar: RNA's Role at Beginning of Life - For Further Information
Before there was life, there were chemicals. The idea that ribonucleic acid (RNA), because of its catalytic capability and multiple roles in protein synthesis, was the chemical that led directly to life is termed the RNA world hypothesis. Although the phrase "RNA world" is generally attributed to Walter Gilbert, Harvard University's Carl M. Loeb University Professor, in a short 1986 paper, the idea of RNA's importance at the beginning of life was discussed two decades earlier.
MINING FOR RNA: James Ferris's group at Rensselaer re-creates how nucleotides might have joined on ancient mineral surfaces.
The RNA world hypothesis has fueled diverse research approaches, drawing from geology, biochemistry, and evolutionary biology. RNA world studies have been strong and steady for a decade. Researchers are re-creating early Earth conditions, discovering new RNA activities, and uncovering clues to life in the most...