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Researchers One Step Closer To Creating Life 292

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute are potentially one step closer to creating life. In an experiment they recently created enzymes that can replicate and evolve. 'It kind of blew me away,' said team member Tracey Lincoln of the Scripps Research Institute, who is working on her Ph.D. 'What we have is non-living, but we've been able to show that it has some life-like properties, and that was extremely interesting.'"
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Researchers One Step Closer To Creating Life

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  • Here's an NPR story (Score:5, Informative)

    by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @05:57PM (#26423743) Journal

    It's a bit nicer than the print article: Here [npr.org]

    They are very clear in saying that what they have created is "NOT ALIVE."

    This is very interesting work.

  • Andrew Crosse (Score:2, Informative)

    by Miamicoastguard ( 1117151 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @06:25PM (#26424229)
    If you haven't already heard of Andrew Crosse and his experiments this is well worth a look. http://www.spartechsoftware.com/dimensions/mystical/AndrewCroise.htm [spartechsoftware.com] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Crosse [wikipedia.org] The biochemical experiments conducted in 1837 produced insects which were later named acari or Acarus Crossii
  • by dtjohnson ( 102237 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:26PM (#26424625)

    TFA is just more 'create life' hype to get research funding dollars.

    From the article: "Specifically, the researchers synthesized RNA
    enzymes that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins
    or other cellular components, and the process proceeds indefinitely.
    "Immortalized" RNA, they call it, at least within the limited
    conditions of a laboratory. More significantly, the scientists
    then mixed different RNA enzymes that had replicated, along with some
    of the raw material they were working with, and let them compete in
    what's sure to be the next big hit: "Survivor: Test Tube."

    Not even sure from TFA what the "breakthrough" is supposed to
    be...'self-replicating RNA' or 'immortalized RNA?' UC Santa
    Cruz researchers worked [physorg.com]
    out the structure of such a molecule two years ago.
    This would be slightly more impressive if the researchers could claim
    that their immortal RNA was capable of de novo synthesis [wikipedia.org]
    but the only claim they make is that no 'proteins' or 'cellular
    components' are required for replication from their "raw material"
    which is apparently some type of RNA.

  • Unintelligent design (Score:5, Informative)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:30PM (#26424659)

    the enzymes are being intelligently designed . . .

    Not entirely. According to the paper, they were in part designed by in vitro evolution, an "unintelligent" design method that makes use of random mutation and selection to derive better enzymes. The power of "unintelligent" design mechanisms (of which evolution is one) is that they do not require that the specific solution to a design problem be known in advance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:04PM (#26426521)

    You quoted the article, but you didn't read it. This is a huge breakthrough. As in Nobel Prize level. An RNA molecule that is able to directly self-replicate has never been seen before. Your first link is to a structure of an RNA enzyme, not an RNA that is able to make more copies of itself. You're equating a machine that makes lampshades to a lampshade making lampshades. The other link, just because I don't know exactly how the Sun came to be means that it doesn't shine? What exactly is the point of this?

  • by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @10:11PM (#26426615)
    An article that provides a little more technical detail is Chemists edge closer to recreating early life [rsc.org]. In particular, it mentions that the complexity of the system is only about 140 nucleotides, which I find quite amazing. By contrast, the simplest known independently self-reproducing organism (i.e. not a virus, etc. dependent on a host and using the host's reproduction machinery) is the Mycoplasma genitalium [wikipedia.org] with 582970 base pairs of DNA. So this new system shows that independent self-reproduction is possible with dramatically reduced complexity.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard