Two scientists, Dr. Charles Carter, of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Peter Wills, a physics professor at the University of Auckland, are challenging one of the most widely-held beliefs in the world of science.

A widely accepted hypothesis of the origin of life is called the “RNA-world” hypothesis, which states that life began from nucleic acids and only evolved later into proteins. However, in two recent studies, scientists Carter and Wills have found that this hypothesis is false, and have named their findings the “peptide-RNA” hypothesis. They believe their findings are much more probable and realistic. They argue that RNA could not be the source of biological life on earth because it lacks an important characteristic, called “reflexivity”. This means RNA lacks the ability to form the feedback loop that is necessary to lead to eventual life forms.


At the core of their “peptide-RNA” hypothesis is that the remnants of ancient enzymes are still found in all living organisms today. These ancient enzymes are called aminoacyl-tRNA-synthetases (aaRSs). These 20 aaRSs enzymes are broken into 2 structurally distinct families which each are exact opposites of each other. Being that these enzymes are so simple in structure, Cater and Wills believe they are the basis of biological life.

So, which theory do you believe, the “RNA-world” hypothesis or the “peptide-RNA” hypothesis?

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