The Origins of Life...Again
What would an RNA molecule today have to say about the origins of life? We live in a world where cellular life is dominated by DNA, but this wasn’t always the case.
Produced in partnership with Johns Hopkins University
What would an RNA molecule today have to say about the origins of life? We live in a world where cellular life is dominated by DNA, but this wasn’t always the case. The Origins of Life…Again is a speculative look at the future from the perspective of an RNA molecule if she was able to take agency for her own destiny. Instigated by an NSF funded project that is using synthetic biology to investigate the origins of life — RNA imagines a future based on the past, one that leads to insight on RNA-based viruses, the limits of fully synthetic genomes, and potential extraterrestrial life.
We have synthesized functional genomes of viruses, bacteria and simple celled organisms, but are we able to replicate life that no longer exists on this planet? Before DNA became indispensable to cellular life, there was an RNA world in which RNA performed all the functions, produced all the proteins necessary for transmission, replication, and evolution, aka life. RNA can even do the work of proteins...without proteins. Creating an RNA-based organism in the lab that self-replicates would shed light on how we transitioned into our DNA-based world.
This is exactly what our RNA character is investigating as she shuns her repetitive messenger job within the DNA factory to engineer her own likeness. Like JHU scientists, RNA is inspired by the past - a rollercoaster world full of possibilities — as a way to build a new future. Can RNA create an entirely new form of life using new rules, and what does that mean for biology?
Presented by The Johns Hopkins University
Animation by Daniela Sherer
Narration by Dr. Raven Baxter
Sound + Music by Skillbard
A Co-Production of Massive + The Johns Hopkins University
Producer Harriet Bailey
Produced for The Johns Hopkins University
Supported by The National Science Foundation