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Research That Matters

Life without DNA

There are many mysteries yet to be solved regarding the origin of life, but associate professor Peter Unrau’s research group is gaining global recognition for their contribution to the RNA world theory, which holds that life without DNA—or even protein—is possible. Building on his work as a post-doctoral fellow at MIT, where he demonstrated that RNA could copy itself, this year Unrau and his team showed that a type of RNA can promote more than one kind of chemical reaction. If RNA can both remember information and act upon a broad range of different molecules, says Unrau, "then it’s as though it can be both the bricks and the bricklayer, providing a self-consistent way to build and power an early organism."