Wired is reporting on the work of Jack Szostak, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues, to create viable instances of protolife, or something almost mimicking living organisms.
Here’s a snippet to wet your lips:
Szostak’s protocells are built from fatty molecules that can trap bits of nucleic acids that contain the source code for replication. Combined with a process that harnesses external energy from the sun or chemical reactions, they could form a self-replicating, evolving system that satisfies the conditions of life, but isn’t anything like life on earth now, but might represent life as it began or could exist elsewhere in the universe.
While his latest work remains unpublished, Szostak described preliminary new success in getting protocells with genetic information inside them to replicate at the XV International Conference on the Origin of Life in Florence, Italy, last week. The replication isn’t wholly autonomous, so it’s not quite artificial life yet, but it is as close as anyone has ever come to turning chemicals into biological organisms.
Here’s an incredible video showing fatty acids joining together to form a vesicle:
Read on at Wired…
Illustrations by Janet Iwasa. 1. A model of a protocell. 2. A movie of a vesicle, or fatty acid membrane, forming.