A friend of mine just made me aware of this site that makes RNA folding into a game. The educational aspect focuses on teaching students/ players that RNA is not just a simple, linear molecule (like people think of mRNA most of the time) that carries information from DNA about making proteins. RNA is also a very dynamic molecule that has a number of functions not directly related to carrying information about building proteins. In fact, these molecules are so multifunctional, there is a pretty believable theory out there that the first life on this planet was wholly RNA-based.
This game illuminates just why the RNA-first theory makes so much sense: Because RNA can actually ‘do things’. It can fold on itself and form structures very similar to proteins and these structures can have functions very much as proteins do. In fact, many of us think about RNA as functional all the time. Ribosomes are perfect examples of this: RNA that acts as an enzyme.
I can’t wait to show this to my students in the Fall and see if it helps them get a better grasp on DNA/RNA base-pairing as well as the idea that folding of molecules dictates functions.
here’s the link, I hope you enjoy: