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October 25 2012

Move over DNA: Six new molecules can carry genes


All of a sudden, DNA has no reason to feel special. For decades it seemed that only a handful of molecules could store genetic information and pass it on. But now synthetic biologists have discovered that six others can pull off the same trick, and there may be many more to find.

The ability to copy information from one molecule to another is fundamental to all life. Organisms pass their genes to their descendants, often with small changes, and as a result life can evolve over the generations. Barring a few exceptions, all known organisms use DNA as the information carrier.

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