Observations regarding the catalytic potential of RNA and the role of RNA in biology have formed the basis for the "RNA world" hypothesis, which suggests that a genetic system based on self-replicating polyribonucleotides preceded modern biology. However, attempts to devise a realistic prebiotic synthesis of nucleic acids from simple starting materials have been plagued by problems of poor chemical selectivity, lack of stereo- and regiospecificity, and similar rates of formation and degradation of some of the key intermediates. For example, ribose would have been only a small component of a highly complex mix of sugars resulting from the condensation of formaldehyde in a prebiotic world. In addition, ribose is more reactive and degrades more rapidly compared with most other monosaccharides. This study demonstrates an approach for the preferential sequestration of ribose relative to other sugars that takes advantage of its greater reactivity. Cyanamide reacts especially rapidly with ribose to form a stable bicyclic adduct. This product crystallizes spontaneously in aqueous solution, whereas the corresponding products derived from threose, galactose, glucose, mannose, and each of the other pentoses do not. Furthermore, when employing a racemic mixture of d- and l-ribose, enantiomerically twinned crystals are formed that contain discrete homochiral domains.