This is a cool story I was intending to cover in my good news/bad news segment but I really wanted to talk about it, so sorry that I couldn’t wait, but I assure you I will find something equally cool to talk about on Monday.
Take a look here for the original article if you want to hear a professional journalist covering this, seeing as I will probably leave out something very important completely by accident.
Cutting to the chase, researchers have recently been working on variations on DNA and RNA structure and observing whether or not these variations could undergo the same complex processes that have led to the great diversity of life we see today.
You may remember the story a year or two ago about bacteria that could incorporate arsenic into their DNA to replace the phosphorous in their sugar/phosphate backbone. Well, whether that story deserved the credit it got or not, this goes even deeper into the molecular processes of the key to our genetics.
In fact, by retaining the coding system of nitrogenous bases (adenine, guanine, thymine/uracil, cytosine) and replacing the sugars used in the DNA backbone to create XNA, or xeno-nucleic acid; scientists found that this molecule could indeed undergo its own processes of replication, and on a larger scale, evolution.
Could this mean that life could be more common in the universe than we suspect? Surely, the ability of these molecules to form in other structures than they have on earth increases the possibilities? Perhaps.
What I would like to see personally, is how many other molecules the base pair system could work with.
If there are many more amino acids, or even better, other molecules that could code in similar enough ways to produce the effects we see in life, then, more than ever, it would be arrogant to declare ourselves the chosen people, to assume we are alone in the universe.