Chemists discover the mix that likely originated life on Earth

Scientists find that an RNA-DNA mix may have created the first life on our planet.

Chemists discover the mix that likely originated life on Earth

DNA model being created.

Credit: Adobe Stock
  • New study shows that RNA and DNA likely originated together.
  • The mixture of the acids are believed to haveproduced Earth's first life forms.
  • The molecules were created with the help of a compound available in planet's early days.

How did life on Earth originate? Chemists claim to have found the exact ingredients of the primordial soup that resulted in the plethora of creatures we see in the world today. A new study shows that the compound diamidophosphate (DAP) possibly mixed together the strands of the original DNA. The research is also further support for the emerging view that DNA and RNA molecules first appeared together, courtesy of the same chemical reactions, and their mixture possibly produced the planet's initial life forms.

The single-stranded RNA, or ribonucleic acid, can be found in all living cells, carrying instructions from DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that lead to the synthesis of proteins. The study says the compound DAP, potentially available widely in Earth's early days, strung together DNA from building blocks called deoxynucleosides. A 2017 study by the same team showed this process responsible for creating the first RNA strands.

The new study's senior author Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, associate professor of chemistry at Scripps Research, called the finding "an important step toward the development of a detailed chemical model of how the first life forms originated on Earth."

Krishnamurthy and his colleagues make their case for an explanation of life's origins that differs from the popular "RNA World" hypothesis that proposes RNA was the first replicator, with DNA eventually being created by RNA life forms. To Krishnamurthy's team, RNA molecules are too "sticky" – while they can attract other RNA strands, they may not be so efficient at separating from them. This liability could prevent RNA from replicating, a key process of life.


The chemists behind the new study believe that "chimeric" strands mixing DNA and RNA molecules fostered replication because they could separate with greater ease.

"Now that we understand better how a primordial chemistry could have made the first RNAs and DNAs, we can start using it on mixes of ribonucleoside and deoxynucleoside building blocks to see what chimeric molecules are formed—and whether they can self-replicate and evolve," Krishnamurthy explained.

The researchers believe their work could have a wide variety of uses, leading to enzyme-free artificial synthesis of DNA and RNA, vital to COVID-19 tests, and possibly in many other applications.

Check out the study published in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.

Airspeeder's ‘flying car’ racers to be shielded by virtual force-fields

Welcome to the world's newest motorsport: manned multicopter races that exceed speeds of 100 mph.

Credit: Airspeeder
Technology & Innovation
  • Airspeeder is a company that aims to put on high-speed races featuring electric flying vehicles.
  • The so-called Speeders are able to fly at speeds of up to 120 mph.
  • The motorsport aims to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector, which could usher in the age of air taxis.
Keep reading Show less

How space debris created the world’s largest garbage dump

Since 1957, the world's space agencies have been polluting the space above us with countless pieces of junk, threatening our technological infrastructure and ability to venture deeper into space.

Space debris orbiting Earth

Framestock via Adobe Stock
Technology & Innovation
  • Space debris is any human-made object that's currently orbiting Earth.
  • When space debris collides with other space debris, it can create thousands more pieces of junk, a dangerous phenomenon known as the Kessler syndrome.
  • Radical solutions are being proposed to fix the problem, some of which just might work. (See the video embedded toward the end of the article.)
Keep reading Show less

Looking for something? A team at MIT develop a robot that sees through walls

It uses radio waves to pinpoint items, even when they're hidden from view.

TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
In recent years, robots have gained artificial vision, touch, and even smell.
Keep reading Show less