Biochemistry: Step Toward Life

Can chemists synthesize life? Not quite yet. But famed Biochemist Gerhard Schramm of the Max Planck Institute for Virus Research at Tubingen, Germany, is coming remarkably close. Last month he told a conference at Munich that he has managed with simple chemicals to build nucleic acid, the most vital compound in living organisms—and he used the same processes that are thought to have created the first life on earth.

Students of ancient life believe that billions of years ago the newly formed earth was covered by an atmosphere that had no free oxygen in it. Instead it had methane, ammonia,...

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