Life in the Lab

Brian D Harper (
Wed, 12 May 1999 19:08:24 -0700

I'm afraid I'm somewhat behind on this thread and haven't
had time yet to read through Kevin's most recent posts.
I was digging around in some of our on-line data bases
and managed to find another reference which I thought
I'd pass along. Apologies if Kevin already mentioned this
one :).

"Experimental retracement of the origins of a protocell: It was
also a protoneuron," Journal of Biological Physics. 20 (1-4) 1-4 . 17-36.

Fox, Sidney W.; Bahn, Peter R.; Dose, Klaus; Harada, Kaoru;
Hsu, Laura; Ishima, Yoshio; Jungck, John; Kendrick, Jean;
Krampitz, Gottfried; Lacey., James C., Jr.; Matsuno, Koichiro;
Melius, Paul; Middlebrook, Mavis; Nakashima, Tadayoshi;
Pappelis, Aristotel; Pol, Alexander; Rohlfing, Duane L.;
Vegotsky, Allen; Waehneldt, Thomas V.; Wax, H.; Yu, Bi

Although Oparin used coacervate droplets from two or more
types of polymer to model the first cell, he hypothesized
homacervation from protein, consistent with Pasteur and
Darwin. Herrera made two amino acids and numerous cell-like
structures ("sulfobes") in the laboratory, which probably arose
from intermediate polymers. Our experiments have conformed
with a homoacervation of thermal proteinoid, in which amino
acid sequences are determined by the reacting amino acids
themselves. All proteinoids that have been tested assemble
themselves alone in water to protocells. The protocells have
characteristics of life defined by Webster's Dictionary:
metabolism, growth, reproduction and response to stimuli in
the environment. The protocells are able also to evolve to
more modem cells including the initiation of a nucleic acid
coding system. Principal spinoffs from the results are revised
evolutionary theory, models for protoneurons and networks
thereof, and numerous industrial applications of thermal
polyamino acids. Life itself has thus been reaffirmed to be
rooted in protein, not in DNA nor RNA, which are however
crucial to inheritance in modern life as "instruction manuals'
(Komberg). Recognition of the advances have been
considerably delayed by the deeply held assumption that life
began by chance from random polymerization of amino acids,
in contrast to the experimental findings. The concepts of
DNA/RNA-first and protein-first are reconciled by a
rise-and-fall progression as often seen in biochemical and
biological evolution. The fact that amino acids order
themselves explains in turn that thermal copolyamino acids are
finding numerous applications. The entire sequence of
processes in the proteinoid origins theory is now seen to be
highly deterministic, in close accord with Einstein.

One interesting thing about this paper is the number of
authors, some very well known. The names that jumped out
at me were Klaus Dose and Koichiro Matsuno. Perhaps others
may be familiar with some of the other names. So, we have
these two prominent researchers willing to sign their
names to a paper claiming that protocells are alive. While
not establishing a consensus, it at least establishes the
view as legitimate minority opinion.

Seeing Koichiro's name reminded me that I had a brief e-mail
discussion with him several years ago about Hubert Yockey.
So, I decided to send him an e-mail to see if he would
express his views on the subject. I'll let the group know
if he replies.

Many thanks to Kevin for the effort he has expended in
defending his claim. Maybe I'll be able to say more once
I've looked at his posts.

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have
grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics"
-- E. H. Hiebert