Looking for Clues to the Mystery of Life on Earth

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Science  16 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5277, pp. 870-872
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5277.870


Orl&eacuteans, France—Nearly 300 scientists, including three Nobel laureates, gathered here last month to grapple with the riddle of how DNA and RNA first came to exist and how they evolved into self-reproducing cells—questions that have gained new urgency with the hint that life in some form may also have evolved on Mars. Highlights of the meeting included new geological studies that may push back the date of the earliest life on Earth by 400 million years; new analyses of organic molecules from a meteorite which suggest that the phosphorus compounds essential to DNA and RNA may have come from space; and attempts to simulate early life in a test tube, which indicate that the first living molecules may have been RNA.