For the first time, genetic information has been copied inside a simple cell designed to mimic primordial life. Until now, such copying had the unfortunate side effect of destroying the cell, but researchers have found that the cell can be stabilised by adding a dash of citrate. The substance is synthesised from citric acid, a chemical found in lemons and oranges.
"We've found a solution to a long-standing problem in the origin of cellular life," says Jack Szostak of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
The work is part of an ongoing project that aims to figure out how the first life on Earth formed from a collection of lifeless molecules.
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