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"Fundamental Equation of Life" --New Insights Into Origins of Life Will Aid Searches in Our Solar System & Beyond

 

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"The origin of life is one of the hardest problems in all of science, but it is also one of the most important," said Rowena Ball from the Mathematical Sciences Institute and Research School of Chemistry at Australia National University."Evolution can be thought of as burning a succession of small bridges. But the first cellular life destroyed probably one of the most important bridges, the one that spanned the living and non-living molecular worlds. Any chance of rebuilding that bridge was permanently rubbed out by the persistence of catalyses throughout subsequent evolution."

A new study led by ANU has shed light on how the earliest forms of life evolved on Earth about four billion years ago. In a major advance on previous work, the study found a compound commonly used in hair bleach, hydrogen peroxide, made the eventual emergence of life possible.

 

Lead researcher Associate Professor Rowena Ball from ANU said hydrogen peroxide was the vital ingredient in rock pores around underwater heat vents that set in train a sequence of chemical reactions that led to the first forms of life.

The research team made a model using hydrogen peroxide and porous rock that simulated the dynamic, messy environment that hosted the origin of life. "Hydrogen peroxide played multiple roles in the emergence of living systems, and this study investigated how it ensured the randomly fluctuating temperatures and pH levels necessary to energise the production of a chemical world that made life on Earth possible,"  Ball said. "Our simulations reveal the importance of long rock pores or lengthy, interconnected porous structures in enabling the creation of long, large molecules."

The research advances upon previous studies by modeling the flow of reactive species through porous rock rather than through a single pore. Ball said the high temperature fluctuations must not rise too high or occur too often. "The system needs to spend enough time at higher temperatures to carry out essential synthetic reactions, but not so much that the reactants are totally consumed or destroyed. We call this the 'Goldilocks' distribution," she said. "This effectively gives us the 'fundamental equation of life'. It says that for life to begin and persist, the habitat must exhibit a specific range of temperature fluctuations."

This result provides new and valuable guidelines in the search for extraterrestrial life. Hydrogen peroxide also promoted the evolution of enzymes called catalases that prevented a second 'origin of life' event.
"The ubiquitous presence of life, and hence catalases, in all habitable environments prevent hydrogen peroxide from accumulating sufficiently anywhere to drive a second origin event," Dr Ball said.

The study is published in the international journal Royal Society Open Science.

The Daily Galaxy via Australian National University

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Comments

With respect, this is intellectually insulting with wild speculation of H2O2. The geochemical conditions and trivialization of biochemical assembly, metabolism and reproduction will not address the intractable problems of purely naturalistic processes. Chemical evolution and primordial soup are mythology, there are no cosmic evolutionary processes capable of the complex structure, design, order and operation of biochemical systems required for even the simplest organism. H2O2 in the wrong concentrations is deleterious to biochemical assembly. The homochirality essential in nucleotide amino acids, the homopolymerization of the DNA side chains, ribosome development, the nucleotide coding using information design, the cell membrane formation essential for what is required for colocation. coincidence, contamination mitigation and concentrations that are absolutely precise and should be the most profound and frequently reported issues, not wild speculation about deleteriously reactive chemicals.

I tend to agree with Qedlin Saltum's comment with regard to the role of H2O2 as a determining component of abiogenesis. It does appear to be wildly exaggerated.

However, Ball's points addressing the crucial importance if porous matrices present in alkaline thermal vent plumes are right on the mark.

In fact, none of the DNA first, RNA first, protein first or cell membrane first models that are still bandied about are truly compatible with established laws of chemistry and physics.

Robert Shapiro's book "Origins, a Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth"gave an exhaustive and definitive explanation of why this is the case.

In these exciting times it is becoming widely recognized that the early notion that the first identifiable instances of biology were naked self replicating molecules (strands of DNA, RNA or protein) or "empty" lipid bubbles, is deeply flawed.

It is unevidenced and, furthermore, cannot even be given a sound heuristic basis. It is one of those myths which has insidiously crept into scientific circles without serious challenge. Along with the equally impractical notions involving panspermia. Not to mention the feeble minded cop-out that "God did it"

Today, a far more plausible model that is consistent with known principles of physics and chemistry derives from the discovery of the deep-sea alkaline hydrothermal vents.
This model provides for the CO-EVOLUTION of enzymes, nucleotides and, most importantly, that oft overlooked but absolutely crucial component, a cell membrane equipped with means of selective influx of nutrients and efflux of wastes.

The plumes generated by the vents provide vast matrices of catalytic cell-sized cavities, complete with suitable chemical precursors, flow, and favorable energetics that at last bring the probabilities within reasonable bounds.

This scenario is explored at length in chapter 9 of my recent book "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill".

i think so Our simulations reveal the importance of long rock pores or lengthy, interconnected porous structures in enabling the creation of long, large molecules.

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