Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

Nov 3, 2014

Credit: © zhu difeng / Fotolia

By Science Daily

Mimicking natural evolution in a test tube, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have devised an enzyme with a unique property that might have been crucial to the origin of life on Earth.

Aside from illuminating one possible path for life’s beginnings, the achievement is likely to yield a powerful tool for evolving new and useful molecules.

“When I start to tell people about this, they sometimes wonder if we’re merely suggesting the possibility of such an enzyme — but no, we actually made it,” said Gerald F. Joyce, professor in TSRI’s Departments of Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology and director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation.

Joyce was the senior author of the new report, which was published online ahead of print by the journalNature on October 29, 2014.

The Challenge of Making Copies

The new enzyme is called a ribozyme because it is made from ribonucleic acid (RNA). Modern DNA-based life forms appear to have evolved from a simpler “RNA world,” and many scientists suspect that RNA molecules with enzymatic properties were Earth’s first self-replicators.


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15 comments on “Scientists make enzyme that could help explain origins of life

  • I think this is my Christmas present come early. It is a credible path for the start of evolutionary chemistry. This is another potential (and big time) godly gap filler. Now for the perfect Christmas present we just need the perfect wrapping. Lipids! Its never too early to start wrapping.



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  • Pretty much destroys the creationist chirality objections. One of their big points taken on and taken down.

    Quora has a plethora of creationists thinking the chirality objection is an evolutionary theory killer.

    How do I tag this article for quick reference?



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  • Well clearly there will need to be a little rewriting. That quaint Father and Son stuff will have to be updated. Maybe Lab Chief, Technician and Holy Ghost? Maybe Head Chef, Saucier and Holy Ghost? These soups aren’t going to cook themselves…..Oh wait….



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  • Breath-taking work.

    But what’s the betting that if this pans out creationists will simply make up more stuff to feed their habit; a new First Cause shouldn’t be too hard to cook up.

    Or perhaps they’ll just fall back on the old perennial favourite, and claim it’s the work of the Devil; Satan’s way of deceiving us.



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  • Popie pants will think of a way of making it his own, his very own; after all, he has a direct line to the governor; where better to get ideas.

    No, this could be the start of something really…I can’t think of an adequate description.



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  • 10
    maria melo says:

    “Science cannot explain how non-life became life” ? Ignorance certainly cannot explain too much about anything (that´s more certain).



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  • David R Allen Nov 4, 2014 at 5:22 am

    When the gap god hides in gets down to the plank length, does that mean he’s gone.

    That reminds me of when we were joking on the very old RDFS site, about creationist “explanations” of the Big-Bang, and Ham asking for Ark sponsorship .

    Roger picked up on this, and got banned from the AIG website, for asking if he could get a discount on entry to the Creation Museum, if he sponsored two short thick planks to go on Hammy’s Ark! (After all – you can’t get much shorter than Planck length, and you can’t get much thicker than AIG!)



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  • It’s a bit dismaying how quickly scientific information seeps away from the non science trained brain.

    Your mention of lipids has got me going Phil.

    So, it’s back to The Extended Phenotype for yours truly; or should it be the most famous volume?

    T E P won the first encounter I had with it, when our daughters were studying for biology and chemistry A levels, but a vague impression remains; a dim outline.



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  • Yes, now that he’s given the papal sign of approval for evolution he needs to endorse the RNA. Who knows where this will stop? There’s probably an obscure biblical passage that can be twisted to fit RNA molecules with enzymatic properties.



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  • people who say such things rarely go on record as to defining what life is.

    the bible was written hundreds of years before the invention of the microscope. up to then humanity was ignorant of what 99.9% of life included



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  • Should we all be sending requests to the Answers In Genesis site (and others of that ilk, like Ken Ham) for their comments on this article ? You know, just to give them a head start on what their thinking will be when/if the team in this article take the final step and “create” life in a test tube ? You know, polite notes, nothing nasty, just asking.



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