RNA origin of Early Life
How did life on Earth first arise out of the chemical soup? According to Nobelist Jack Szostak, it began with a self-replicating RNA chromosome inside a lipid bubble. It looks something like an HIV virus–and some people argue that “viruses” were the first cells. As the RNA made copies of itself, the bubble expanded. Szostak has accomplished several steps of this process in his own laboratory.
In Szostak’s model, the RNA chain carries information including a means to copy itself. The copying mechanism must allow occasional errors, so that new sequences arise that encode new useful functions. The new functions can be inherited and can further evolve. The protocell membrane then keeps these chains of RNA in one place, so that the functions they encode confer an advantage for their own survival and propagation.
Could this RNA world arise by chance? What other problems must be solved to have a genuine life form?