Scientists Seek 'Frankenstein Spark'

Synthetic life close to becoming a reality
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2011 3:44 AM CDT
It's alive!   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Alien life may appear in a test tube on Earth long before it's found elsewhere—and by some standards, it's already here, researchers say. Multiple teams of scientists around the world are experimenting with genetic tools in an effort to create synthetic life, the New York Times finds. Having a completely new example of life will give a much better picture of what other kinds of life exist in the universe and how common extraterrestrial life is, researchers say.

Biologists haven't yet found the "Frankenstein spark" to create life—or even agreed on a definition of life—but Gerald Joyce at the Scripps Research Institute believes he is getting close. Joyce and his team have created an RNA molecule that can replicate itself and evolve to improve its ability to reproduce. He believes that one day, his creation might surprise him with an unexpected new evolutionary trick of the kind that led to the amazing diversity of life on Earth. "If it would happen, it would do it for me, I would be happy,” he says. “I won’t say it out loud, but it’s alive."

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