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Self-replicating protein factories are a step towards artificial life


Ribosomes, tiny structures where proteins are produced inside cells, have been made to self-replicate outside cells for the first time, which could help us understand the origins of life



Life



12 September 2022

Illustration of a ribosome

CHRISTOPH BURGSTEDT/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Tiny protein factories, or ribosomes, have been made to self-replicate outside a living cell for the first time. The achievement is a crucial step towards building self-replicating artificial cells from scratch and understanding how the first living things started reproducing themselves.

Ribosomes are where the genetic code gets translated into proteins – complex molecules that make up the machinery of living cells. In order for the earliest life to get going, many researchers think ribosomes must have been able to assemble and replicate before there were cells.

But …



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