In his fourth-floor lab at Harvard University, Michael Desai has created hundreds of identical worlds in order to watch evolution at work.
Each of his meticulously controlled environments is home to a separate strain of baker’s yeast. Every 12 hours, Desai’s robot assistants pluck out the fastest-growing yeast in each world — selecting the fittest to live on — and discard the rest. Desai then monitors the strains as they evolve over the course of 500 generations.
His experiment, which other scientists say is unprecedented in scale, seeks to gain insight into a question that has long bedeviled biologists: If we could start the world over again, would life evolve the same way? …
Discovery shows that oceanic metabolic processes could have, over time, engendered the conditions necessary for RNA precursors to appear.
A graduate student who took a shortcut during a quality control procedure at the University of Cambridge accidentally discovered the first evidence of metabolism occurring outside a cell. The unexpected result may help to lift another veil on the mystery that is the origin of life.
The student, who was working in Markus Ralser’s lab, detected pyruvate in a cell culture medium that hadn’t been used yet. It shouldn’t have been there. Pyruvate is a product of glycolysis, the metabolic pathway that breaks down the sugar glucose in one of the many steps that lead to the production of ATP, the energy storing molecule that makes our cells tick…