New chemical research reveals how the building blocks of life originated

Image courtesy of Flickr user Aranda\Lasch

It seems inconceivable that from a jumble of chemical molecules, an ordered and complex combination of chemicals could combine and multiply to give rise to life. Scientists have struggled to understand how such a molecular structure could have been created without pre-existing parameters.

But molecular modeling by researchers at National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) may finally have given indication of how life originated from the primordial seas that once covered ancient Earth. The NESCent team, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, has been searching for clues to understand how a molecular network capable of self-replication first arose from “chemical soup”.

Scientists have already demonstrated that these networks can be created in labs. Now, the NESCent team has worked to analyze mathematical models of network structures to understand how they could have evolved to the next step of forming nucleic acids and membranes, the “building blocks of life”.

Through mathematical modeling, the researchers have discovered that within the various network structures, there exist smaller molecular subsets that share the ability to self-replicate rapidly. These smaller subsets have been able to split and interact with subsets from other networks to create more complex networks.

From those larger networks of chemical reactions, the building blocks of life are thought to have emerged.

The findings of the NESCent team are set to be published in the journal Acta Biotheoretica.

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