Life as we know it displays a high degree of organization. All living things look different only on the outside but inside, all of them have the same molecules and systems. The fundamental chemicals of life consist of fats (lipid), proteins (amino acid), DNA/RNA (sugar) and water. This is universal. Basically, Lipid plays a role of the membrane, protein as the building blocks and DNA/RNA as the genetic materials. Amino acids are the monomers of proteins. Interestingly life only utilizes 20 amino acid to form proteins (we call them proteinous amino acids). When amino acid joins each other they become a poly-peptide by forming a peptide bond. Proteins are a combination of large polypeptide. Now when it comes to genetic materials, we have our DNA and RNA which are made up by nucleic acids. Both of them consist of a ribose sugar, a phosphate group and bases. The bases are important since it is used in transcription and translation. Both these processes are fundamental in the building of life. I suggest you take a look at the video below. Every hormones and enzymes which came into existence in your body are through this way. its mechanism is simply amazing (and this happens from the simplest of cells to the biggest whale in the world!!).
When you put all the ingredients together you get life. NO. all this molecules will simply flow aimlessly unless you put them in a cell. This increases the concentration and separates the molecules from the outside world. But then again this is still an impossible feat in synthetic biology. However this does not stop scientist from trying to get this to work. The video below is simply an example on how to make “life” from raw materials and make them “function”.
Generally, origin of life studies are categorized in either being a ‘bottom-up’ strategy or a ‘top-down’ strategy. A bottom up strategy involves using basic chemical mentioned above and putting them to certain feasible environmental stress and see what they do (like the video above). On the other hand the top-down methods, looks at modern biology and uses information from there to extrapolate towards the simplest living entities. Hopefully by using both approaches we can find a mutual meeting point. But this is going to take time, lots of time.
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8 thoughts on “What makes life work”
Yes…well…it did take rather a long time for me to make my planned return to this post! Had to wait for the new mobile broadband month to begin as I had run my monthly megabytes allowance too close to it’s limit for comfort. But some highly interesting responses to your fascinating and educational post have appeared since then 😉 I was interested in the comments between you and kagmi regarding Titan…I’d like to learn more about that 🙂 I think the origins of life will always be a debatable area, but the cellular/molecular level is is of course an essential building block both for life and understanding! And your next post I will try to be on time commenting on!!
Thanks mate, IMO, titan is still a far shot for us; but the trying continues
Hey! Nice post. So many interesting things touched on here.
I am curious as to what you think about “alternative” biochemistries, that is, not based on water. I know some have speculated that life may exist on Saturn’s moon Titan, but I do not know how serious this speculation is.
Thanks for the comment, my lab is also doing experiments on titan atmosphere. Your your “alternative” biochemistries is a valid one but only unproven. Maybe you can read this paper on shadow biosphere to get some ideas (http://legacy.earlham.edu/library/documents/courses/AlternativeLifeCleland.pdf). As for water, It only applies to earth as for now, and ruling out other chemicals such as methane etc is simply premature.
Aaah, thank you for sharing that! It makes some very good points. I get ridiculously excited about these subjects.
I’m also quite excited to hear that your lab is studying Titan. It’s one of my favorite worlds. The pictures from Cassini’s lander blew my mind.
Great article. Precise, clear, and truly astonishing to think this is happening over and over while I type.
You touch on the bottom up versus top down approaches. This is where biology almost enters the realm of philosophy. And it is the most fascinating element of the process–what drives it. What sends the original signal to the cells to begin the whole process? Is it a massive loopback cycle without any real beginning or end? How do a lion and a man, over millenia, become a lion and not a man? Great work.
Your questions sums how amazing life is. (but there is prove that it is not so as well). Thanks for the comment
Hey, really interesting blog!, btw, though I am uploading old posts from ancient blogs so you may need to ignore me for a bit until that’s sorted out. I’ll be sure to check back and see more of your wicked science!
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