Study Reveals How Life Began on a Molecular Level

First Posted: Nov 27, 2012 06:18 AM EST

Researchers have found an answer to the big question-how life began at the molecular level. 

Till date there were several competing theories put forward by scientists on how life begin on Earth right from its nucleus.

There was one common theme in the arguments and that was there is a molecular network which has the ability to jumpstart and speed up its own replication.

Yet researchers find it difficult to understand how such a molecular network could have formed spontaneously from the chemical environment of early Earth.

"Some say it's equivalent to a tornado blowing through a junkyard and assembling the random pieces of metal and plastic into a Boeing 747," said co-author Wim Hordijk, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

 The structure of the networks in their mathematical models was analyzed by Hordijk and colleague Stuart Kauffman of the University of Vermont On doing so they found a plausible mechanism by which they could have evolved to produce the building blocks of life we know today, such as cell membranes or nucleic acids.

"It turns out that if you look at the structure of the networks of molecules, very often they're composed of smaller subsets of molecules with the same self-perpetuating capabilities," Hordijk explained.  

By combining, splitting and recombining to form new types of networks from their own subunits, the models indicate that these subsets of molecules could give rise to increasingly large and complex networks of chemical reactions, and, presumably, life.

"These results could have major consequences for how we think life may have originated from pure chemistry," Hordijk wrote.

The study will appear in the December 2012 print issue of the journal Acta Biotheroretica.

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