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Scientists Develop New Method to Investigate Origin of Life

 
 
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 02:30 am
Scientists Develop New Method to Investigate Origin of Life
Quote:
Scientists at Penn State have developed a new computational method that they say will help them to understand how life began on Earth. The team's method has the potential to trace the evolutionary histories of proteins all the way back to either cells or viruses, thus settling the debate once and for all over which of these life forms came first.

The team is focusing on an ancient group of proteins, called retroelements, which comprise approximately 50 percent of the human genome by weight and are a crucial component in a number of diseases, including AIDS. "Retroelements are an ancient and highly diverse class of proteins; therefore, they provide a rigorous benchmark for us to test our approach. We are happy with the results we derived, even though our method is in an early stage," said Patterson. The team plans to make the algorithms that they used in their method available to others as open-source software that is freely available on the Web.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 959 • Replies: 17

 
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 05:12 am
Theres a new game that allows one to "Evolve" an organism based upon several successive options that organisms can take in response to environmental changes. It displays the basic concept that evolution isnt random at all.
rosborne979
 
  3  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 05:37 am
@farmerman,
Teenage dating rituals?
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 10:26 am
@rosborne979,
Spore.
kuvasz
 
  2  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 01:53 pm
@Robert Gentel,
the new version comes out tomorrow and i'm in the waiting line for it.
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 02:15 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Cool!
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 02:17 pm
@kuvasz,
Let me know if it's any good. I'm not much of a gamer these days but the games I most enjoyed were the simulation and world builder types.
kuvasz
 
  2  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 03:01 pm
@Robert Gentel,
check out the article in the times

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/science/02spor.html
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Sep, 2008 03:06 pm
@kuvasz,
I've read a lot about it, and it sounds good. I just don't want to buy yet another game I'll never play (in the last 6 years I've only actually played 2 of the dozen or so games I bought).
0 Replies
 
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 02:59 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Why would it be viruses... a virus can't reproduce without a living host cell. That's like saying computer viruses came before computers.
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 03:58 pm
@aperson,
I think the general point is that cells seem to be far too complex to simply have popped into existence or evolved from non-living matter, and that their genome contains fragments of viral DNA or RNA.

So what's the mechanism that existed before single-celled bacteria started to multiply by cell division? Where there other, simpler elements present that had the capability to reproduce?

Kind of like that. If I understood it correctly....
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 05:50 pm
@old europe,
So basically "Is a cell the simplest thing capable of reproduction?"?

I once read in a novel something about clay being able to reproduce. Maybe it's just something the author made up, but there could be an element of truth.
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:04 pm
@Robert Gentel,
It helps them to get funds more like.
0 Replies
 
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:05 pm
@aperson,
Well what do you know, it does have an element of truth in it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#Clay_theory

And another one:

http://www.skepticfiles.org/atheist2/isue11b.htm

Hell, just look at this:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=com.microsoft%3Aen-US&q=clay+life
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:17 pm
@aperson,
Oh, I've read about the clay theory, too, but that's really all I remember....

On a somewhat related note - I just came across this article here:

A Simpler Origin for Life

It's about the theory that simple RNA molecules, kind of the precursor or 'simpler' version of DNA, could have appeared and started to catalyse the synthesis of themselves. Evolution then would have started with the spontaneous appearance of the first RNA molecule. However, given the relative complexity of even RNA molecules, this theory seems not without problem either.

The article then goes on and explains some alternative theories that would start at an even more basic origin. Conclusion: if the the first molecules capable of replicating themselves were far simpler than an RNA molecule, maybe originally each without the capacity of passing on information stored in them, then it would be far more likely that something similar might have happened elsewhere in the universe.
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 06:27 pm
@aperson,
aperson wrote:

Well what do you know, it does have an element of truth in it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#Clay_theory


Ha... I remember this. Thanks for that link!

Meanwhile:

Autocatalytic sets

Quote:
Autocatalytic sets also have the ability to replicate themselves if they are split apart into two physically separated spaces. Computer models illustrate that split autocatalytic sets will reproduce all of the reactions of the original set in each half, much like cellular mitosis. In effect, using the principles of autocatalysis, a small metabolism can replicate itself with very little high level organization. This property is why autocatalysis is a contender as the foundational mechanism for complex evolution.

Prior to Watson and Crick, biologists considered autocatalytic sets the way metabolism functions in principle, i.e. one protein helps to synthesize another protein and so on. After the discovery of the double helix, the central dogma of molecular biology was formulated, which is that DNA is transcribed to RNA which is translated to protein. The molecular structure of DNA and RNA, as well as the metabolism that maintains their reproduction, are believed to be too complex to have arisen spontaneously in one step from a soup of chemistry.

Several models of the origin of life are based on the notion that life may have arisen through the development of an initial molecular autocatalytic set which evolved over time. Most of these models which have emerged from the studies of complex systems predict that life arose not from a molecule with any particular trait (such as self-replicating RNA) but from an autocatalytic set.
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 07:20 pm
@old europe,
Meh, it is quite possible that life began elsewhere, but that doesn't do anything for the problem. We still have no evidence or theories (correct me if I'm wrong) that another planet would support the origin of life any better than Earth would.
0 Replies
 
aperson
 
  1  
Reply Fri 17 Apr, 2009 07:24 pm
@old europe,
Hmm interesting.

Slightly off the topic, saw once in a science magazine that scientists had observed balls of plasma displaying many properties of life. The article was surprisingly breif and vague for a discovery I thought would have been an enormous, with lots of media coverage. It completely destroys the assumption that life can only be biological (and maybe technological).

In fact, here it is (although it's just a preview). It may be more on topic than I had previously thought.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg17924131.400-plasma-blobs-hint-at-new-form-of-life.html
0 Replies
 
 

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