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A new molecule that performs the essential function of life – self-replication – could shed light on the origin of all living things.

If that wasn't enough, the laboratory-born ribonucleic acid (RNA) strand evolves in a test tube to double itself ever more swiftly.

“Obviously what we're trying to do is make a biology,” says Gerald Joyce, a biochemist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. He hopes to imbue his team's molecule with all the fundamental properties of life: self-replication, evolution, and function.