A joint research team hailing from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stoney Brook University in New York have devised a computational model that describes their hypothesis about how life first began.
For millennia, humankind has wondered what was the catalyst that began the evolution of biological life as we know it? This is the question that a team of scientists sought to explore and understand. Consequently, to acquire the answer, the research team devised a computation model. This model demonstrates how chemistry may have evolved into biology.
Firstly, according to scientific theory, there was a point in history, around 4 billion years ago, where life began. Scientists assume that some kind of catalyst occurred. A catalyst which caused basic chemical compounds to develop in complexity and create biological compounds.
How did chemistry evolve into biology?
According to scientists, the earth contained these basic chemical compounds, which were perpetually subject to spontaneous interactions. Apparently, it was such an interaction, they allege, that spawned the first biological molecules. Allegedly, these biological molecules theoretically then evolved into DNA and RNA.
Lead author of the study, Professor Ken Dill, described the computational model of the group’s hypothesis to reporter Greg Filiano at Stony Brook University. Dill explained: “We created a computational model that illustrates a fold-and-catalyze mechanism that amplifies polymer sequences and leads to runaway improvements in the polymers. The theoretical study helps to understand a missing link in the evolution of chemistry into biology and how a population of molecular building blocks could, over time, result in the emergence of catalytic sequences essential to biological life.”
The Foldamer hypothesis
This process Dill describes is called the Foldamer hypothesis. Using this hypothesis, Dill and his team propose that pre biotic polymers were capable of collapsing and folding onto each other. Consequently, the resulting polymer became elongated. Additionally, it continued to grow more sequences that contained more chemical information.
The polymers that the researchers used to come to their conclusions were of two types. Firstly they used a polar polymer which is attracted to water molecules. Secondly, the sr scientists selected a hydrophobic polymer, in that water molecules repel these polymers. Next, the scientists observed how the two seemingly opposing polymers could collapse and fold into one another. Consequently, the resultant “foldamer” contained surfaces that repelled water and others that absorbed water.
A working computational model
Ultimately, Dill and his team now believe that their computational model will reveal exactly what the catalyst was that sparked biological life. Hopefully, scientists can use this model in conjunction with the emerging scientific field of quantum biology. For example, quantum physicist, Jim Al-Khalili explained in a TED talk in 2015 how life might be connected to, as Einstein put it, “spooky action at a distance.”