Protocells

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Old Rocks, Jan 20, 2018.

  1. Old Rocks
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    Old Rocks Diamond Member

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    I am currently reading a book that, I hope, will bring me up to date on the research concerning life from non-living materials. This research has been going on since 1867 when Traube demonstrated the spontaneous growth of a semipermeable membrane of copper ferrocyanide around a seed crystal of copper sulfate. No one suggested that these materials were involved in the formation of life as we know it, only that it demonstrated that macro molecules could self assemble.

    Today the scientists have demonstrated the self assembly of vesicles with varying permeability depending on the lipids that they are constructed of. A medium permeability allow some low molecular weight molecules to enter defects, but retains the high molecular weight molecules within the vesicle. Inside the vesicle, chemical reactions occur that result in complex molecules, and some have even self replicated for a few generations.

    This very simple, too simple really, explanation is my own from reading the first three chapter of 'Protocells. Bridging nonliving and living matter" This is from the MIT Press, and available from Amazon. Thus far, I have found it a slow but very interesting read.
     
  2. westwall
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    westwall USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Here's a paper dealing with abiogenic organic compounds as related to energy production and of course, life.

    Serpentinization, abiogenic organic compounds, and deep life

    The hydrocarbons and other organic compounds generated through abiogenic or inorganic processes are closely related to two science subjects, i.e., energy resources and life’s origin and evolution. “The earth’s primordial abiogenic hydrocarbon theory” and “the serpentinization of abiogenic hydrocarbon theory” are the two mainstream theories in the field of related studies. Serpentinization generally occurs in slow expanding mid-ocean ridges and continental ophiolites tectonic environment, etc. The abiogenic hydrocarbons and other organic compounds formed through the serpentinization of ultramafic rocks provide energy and raw materials to support chemosynthetic microbial communities, which probably was the most important hydration reaction for the origin and early evolution of life. The superposition of biological and abiological processes creates big challenge to the identification of the abiogenic organic materials in serpentinite-hosted ecosystem. Whether abiotic (inorganic) process can form oil and gas resource is a difficult question that has been explored continuously by scientific community for more than a century but has not yet been solved. However, some important progress has been made. The prospecting practice of abiogenic hydrocarbons in commercial gases from the Songliao Basin, China, provides an important example for exploring abiogenic natural gas resources.
    Serpentinization, abiogenic organic compounds, and deep life
     
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  3. Old Rocks
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    One possibility, although little abiogenic oil has been found. Wouldn't take much at the ridges, however. To me, the most fascinating facet of this research is how many different avenues that there seems to be for abiogenesis. And that seems to be confirmed by the small length of time it took for life to come into being after the Hadean.
     
  4. westwall
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    westwall USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Indeed. My personal belief is that life is rather common. Complex life though, that is not. To generate complex life requires vast amounts of time, which I feel doesn't happen all that often. Too many opportunities for catastrophe which will wipe out the nascent life forms.
     
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  5. Old Rocks
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    Agree with the catastrophe part. Gamma ray bursters, impacts, disruptions of systems by 'wandering' planets, and more that we simple don't know about at this time. On the other hand, we still only have this one small planet for an example of the evolution of life. For instance, could life have evolved in the clouds of Jupiter? Lots of organics, pressure and thermal gradients. It would be life not as we know it, and that would be the fascinating part. Even here on Earth, we found ourselves startled at the life living in the conditions of the rift zones. The present span of only 90 to 100 years is just too short. So much is being learned on so many interesting subjects that I hate the thought of checking out and missing on the explorations that we are beginning.
     
  6. westwall
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    westwall USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    I concur on the missing out part! So much has been discovered/confirmed while I have been alive that the next fifty years are going to be amazing. Sadly, I will miss most of them.
     
  7. flacaltenn
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    flacaltenn Senior Mod Staff Member Senior USMB Moderator Gold Supporting Member

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    There's undoubtably a cross-over group between "living and non-living" matter. Replication and growth are but PART of life. And producing cellular level "chemical factories" could be a bigger materials/production breakthru than nanotech..
     
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  8. westwall
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    westwall USMB Mod Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Another interesting line of thought is that dealing with computer viruses. They too exhibit most of the attributes assigned to life. They replicate, they can learn and in the case of the better ones, they mutate.
     
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  9. flacaltenn
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    flacaltenn Senior Mod Staff Member Senior USMB Moderator Gold Supporting Member

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    My daughter is currently in a PhD program for neuro biochem and was panicked a couple months ago trying to learn a scripting language for a project. She was hosing her laptop and generating random crap. When I helped her to understand what was happening, she told me she was gonna be very good at creating computer viruses.

    And that's basically what she had done.. :badgrin: She now understands the meaning of life.. :biggrin:
     
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  10. westwall
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    I was at a alumni gathering at Caltech a few years ago, shit, more like 20 years ago now! and the newest and brightest were talking about computer viruses as life. Back then! It really is an interesting field of research. In my own group we were working with coacervate droplets once upon a time and one of us remarked how closely they mimicked life as well.
     
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