An RNA breakthrough reveals alien life could be very common (science video).
An investigation of fresh evidence suggesting RNA creation in nature seems to be simple, and that if the hypothesis is true, the cosmos is likely teeming with microbial life.
RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is a molecule that plays a central role in the storage and transfer of genetic information in all living organisms. One of the most striking features of RNA is its ability to self-replicate and to evolve, which has led scientists to propose that the origins of life on Earth may have been based on RNA.
The hypothesis of RNA world, suggest that the first self-replicating molecules on earth were RNA based, that led to the emergence of living organisms as we know them today.
One of the key properties of RNA that has led scientists to believe that it played a critical role in the origin of life is its ability to catalyze chemical reactions. RNA molecules can act as enzymes, called ribozymes, that can carry out chemical reactions, such as the formation of peptide bonds. This means that RNA molecules can not only store and transfer genetic information, but they can also perform the chemical reactions that are necessary for life.
The hypothesis further suggests that the formation of RNA molecules would have been relatively simple under the conditions that existed on the early Earth. RNA comprises only four different building blocks, or nucleotides, and it is relatively easy for these nucleotides to come together to form RNA chains. Scientists have shown that under certain conditions, such as those found in hydrothermal vents, nucleotides can spontaneously form RNA chains.
The ease of the formation of RNA molecules in nature and the role it plays in the origin of life on Earth, implies that RNA-based life might be abundant in the cosmos.
This idea is supported because we find the building blocks of RNA in many places in the universe, such as in comets and meteorites. If the building blocks of RNA can be formed readily and if the conditions for RNA replication and evolution are met, life based on RNA could have arisen independently on other planets.
In recent years, scientists have also explored the potential for life based on other types of genetic molecules, such as DNA and peptide nucleic acid (PNA), but the hypothesis of an RNA world remains the most widely accepted theory for the emergence of life on Earth.
It is also worth noting that, even though it is plausible for RNA based life to form, it does not guarantee that life as we know it would be the outcome, and more research is needed to understand the probability and the complexity of other forms of life in the cosmos.
The RNA world hypothesis suggests that the emergence of life on Earth was based on RNA, and that the formation of RNA molecules would have been relatively simple under the conditions that existed on the early Earth. This hypothesis is supported because RNA can self-replicate and develop, as well as the ease of the formation of RNA molecules in nature. Therefore, the ease and abundance of RNA-based life on Earth raises the possibility that microbial life based on RNA is abundant in the universe.