A looming mystery facing the human race for millennia is how the first living creatures that inhabited the Earth came to be. In the beginning, humans looked to religion for answers, but in the last 50 years, scientists have cultivated many theories about how life began.
The theory of a ‘primordial soup’, an ocean filled with various minerals and chemicals, has emerged over the years as a prime theory of how life commenced on planet Earth. Around 3.5 billion years ago, when Earth was a lifeless environment, bacteria in the primordial soup started to form and convert compounds, such as carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia into oxygen; a key gas that has sustained most life on Earth, ever since.
However, the mystery to most scientists has been how the bacteria was formed. In the oceans were components of RNA, which are molecules that transfer genetic information inside bacteria and all organisms, and so, experts have theorized that RNA reacted with some other chemical in the primordial soup to make bacteria.
However, RNA is incapable of creating life without DNA as DNA provides the genetic information and instructions for coding proteins essential for life.
Recently, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have uncovered a potential solution to this mystery concerning the primordial soup. They recreated the solution in a chamber without oxygen, and unexpectedly, the RNA present started behaving differently: the molecules essentially ‘shape-shifted’ to become instruction-carriers like DNA. Furthermore, when paired with iron from the primordial soup, the RNA molecules performed a single electron transfer, which possibly could have jumpstarted the crucial reactions needed for photosynthesis and respiration 3.5 billion years ago. Therefore, according to the scientists’ theory, the RNA and iron in combination created the basis for all life.
Although there are some gaps in this theory, such as the elements of RNA not being able to easily bond, this proves that such a basic scientific concept taught to middle-schoolers has not been completely discovered yet! It really makes one ponder: have we really discovered anything yet? What if everything humans have discovered have ‘secret powers’ as seen in the RNA, and there are realms we do not know of?
Who knows, this scientific breakthrough about the beginning of life on Earth could be the inception of even more discoveries!
By Camran Lateef
Edited by Mahir Pradhan