March 22, 2024 at 12:41 pm

Scientists Have Taken A Huge Leap Towards Creating Synthetic Life In A Lab With RNA Breakthrough

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Scientists have been chasing artificial life like tech experts salivate after artificial intelligence, all while the public remains much more skeptical about both.

Nevertheless, scientists are now one step closer to achieving their goal.

There’s a controversial theory that believes life began when RNA spontaneously began to replicate – and that’s the piece of the process researchers say they’ve accomplished in a lab.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies scientists began with the theory that RNA existed before DNA or proteins, making it the first ingredient in primordial soup.

So, creating an RNA molecule that makes copies of other RNA type is pretty close to mimicking the conditions for early life on Earth.

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This will, researchers say, allow them to study the earliest evolutionary stages of life.

The RNA molecule they created can’t yet replicate itself, but once it can, “then it would be alive,” according to president of Salk Gerald Joyce.

“This is the road to how life can arise in a laboratory, or, in principle, anywhere in the universe.”

The tricky part of the process is that RNA has to make extremely close copies to the original. If they vary too much, the error rate ruins the whole process. If they don’t vary at all, it can’t allow for the kinds of mutations that foster growth.

To try to address this, Joyce and his research team made copies of what’s called “hammerhead RNA.”

It chops molecules, so they could verify it coming through when subsequent generations could also “chop” molecules.

Source: Shutterstock

University of California at Irvine professor John Chaput, who wasn’t involved in the study, is very impressed.

“At first, I looked on it as a little bit jaw-dropping. It’s super-neat.”

It’s all fun and games until they accomplish something bigger than an RNA molecule.

Then, the debates around the morals and ethics of synthetic life forms will surely surge.

If you enjoyed that story, check out what happened when a guy gave ChatGPT $100 to make as money as possible, and it turned out exactly how you would expect.