'One among millions': DNA is not the only genetic molecule

A recent computer analysis found that millions of possible chemical compounds could be used to store genetic information. This begs the question — why DNA?

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  • The central dogma of biology states that genetic information flows from DNA to RNA to proteins, but new research suggests that this may not be the only way for life to work.
  • A sophisticated computer analysis revealed that millions of other molecules could be used to function in place of the two nucleic acids, DNA and RNA.
  • The results have important implications for developing new drugs, the origins of life on Earth, and its possible presence in the rest of the universe.
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Scientists create precursor to life in thermal vent experiment

Scientists speculate that if life were to have spontaneously developed on Earth, the first thing there would need to be are vesicles.

  • The findings also suggest that life may have formed in the deep oceans of other celestial bodies in our solar system as well.
  • These are a lot like cell membranes, only they don't contain any of the complicated machinery that real, living cells do.
    • Researchers recently demonstrated that these vesicles form frequently in environments similar to the hydrothermal vents of early Earth.
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    NASA's curiosity rover finds remnants of a lost oasis on Mars

    NASA's intrepid Curiosity rolls upward into Mars history.

    Image source: NASA
    • Curiosity is exploring an exposed cross-section of Mars' early history within the unusual Gale Crater.
    • Intriguing salt deposits indicate briny bodies of water appearing and disappearing over time.
    • Curiosity is digging through Mar's past in search of environments that could have supported microscopic life.
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    Hypoxia researchers win 2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine

    Three scientist friends, working separately, share the prestigious prize.

    Photo credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP via Getty Images
    • Nobel recognizes breakthrough insights into cell's perception and response to changes in oxygen levels.
    • Too title oxygen is a problem. Also too much.
    • Their research unveiled a genuine "textbook discovery."
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    10 new things we’ve learned about cancer

    Cancer's sweet tooth. Turning cancer cells into fat. Unveiling genetic secrets. Scientists are learning about cancer every day.

    • Cancer is a leading cause of death among Americans, second only to heart disease.
    • Researchers are unearthing cancer's genetic secrets and, with it, potential new treatments.
    • Their efforts have seen the cancer death rate for men, women, and children fall year after year between 1999 and 2016.
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