It was a big week for evolutionary/systems biologists and proponents/critics of RNA World Theory (vast oversimplification). Let's take a grade-school simple look at emerging RNA research.
The Big Bang: Gerald Joyce and Tracey Lincoln of Scripps Institute in La Jolla, CA, created short, simple RNA molecules (RC3) that could replicate themselves indefinitely.
Results of the research were published in Science's online journal January 8th.
Genoanthropology implications abound. As of yet, the adame RNA molecules (Adam/Eve; male-female RNA tribal orientations) created are can't acquire/process energy (metabolism). They also can't respond to their environments. Yet.
The seemingly crazy "we are soft spacesuits for our RNA" hypothesis is suddenly front and center, at least providing some decent weekend mental floss.
If the earliest self-replicating RNA couldn't acquire/process energy independently, this may have created the collaborative impetus for partnerships/coalitions between mitochondria, bacteria, and other sugar-processing compounds and organisms.
Mobility and the capability to respond to their environments (as well as a need to defend RNA individuals and colonies from attacking marauders such as viruses and other pathogens) could provide impetus for 'coding' lifesuits utilizing DNA. Thus an RNA - LUCA - DNA progression begins to look more theoretically interesting and potentially testable at some point in the near future.
All of this would be interesting enough if only a single type of self-replicating RNA were created, but Joyce and Lincoln created 12 'disciples' of self-replicating RNA.
In addition, some of the molecules were better able to compete for resources (corresponding genoanth tenet = tribal/cultural orientation of RNA involving competition and collaboration with each other and against external forms such as bacteria and viruses for resources).
Very exciting times, even for a hobby scientific theorist.
Further food for thought:
Saturday Bonus: Recent antibacterial/RNA research from Germany http://medhealthcare.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/new-antibiotic-candidates-from-braunschweig-germany/