it's - sort of - alive!

Posted on: Fri, 01/23/2009 - 10:15 By: Tom Swiss

LiveScience reports that researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have created molecules that bump right up against the boundaries of what we consider "alive". They synthesized RNA enzymes that replicate, mutate, and evolve:

Lincoln's advisor, professor Gerald Joyce, reiterated that while the self-replicating RNA enzyme systems share certain characteristics of life, they are not life as we know it.

"What we've found could be relevant to how life begins, at that key moment when Darwinian evolution starts," Joyce said in a statement.

Joyce's restraint, clear also on an NPR report of the finding, has to be appreciated. He allows that some scientists familiar with the work have argued that this is life. Another scientist said that what the researchers did is equivalent to recreating a scenario that might have led to the origin of life.

Joyce insists he and Lincoln have not created life: "We're knocking on that door," he says, "but of course we haven't achieved that."

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