Science: The primary theory for the origin of life on Earth is that RNA molecules gave rise to RNA-based life that then evolved into DNA-based life. However, how gene-length RNA molecules formed in the oceanic environment of early Earth is uncertain because the nucleotides that make up RNA don’t bond in water. One theory is that RNA itself could have been produced from a molecular combination, dubbed proto-RNA. Earlier research using cyanuric acid and triaminopyrimidine (TAP)—chemicals in the same families as the bases that make up RNA—has shown that in an organic solvent, proto-RNA can successfully bond into ring-like structures called rosettes that can stack into long chains but failed to do so in water. Now Nicholas Hud of Georgia Tech in Atlanta and his colleagues have found that a modified version of TAP allows the molecules to form rosettes and create gene-length chains in water. The ability of the molecules to self-assemble into long chains is a significant step forward in proving the development of RNA-based life. Hud says the next step will be to determine whether the molecules can be made to encode gene-like information in the way that RNA does.