Navigation Links
A new way to think about Earth's first cells
Date:6/5/2008

A team of researchers at Harvard University have modeled in the laboratory a primitive cell, or protocell, that is capable of building, copying and containing DNA.

Since there are no physical records of what the first primitive cells on Earth looked like, or how they grew and divided, the research team's protocell project offers a useful way to learn about how Earth's earliest cells may have interacted with their environment approximately 3.5 billion years ago.

The protocell's fatty acid membrane allows chemical compounds, including the building blocks of DNA, to enter into the cell without the assistance of the protein channels and pumps required by today's highly developed cell membranes. Also unlike modern cells, the protocell does not use enzymes for copying its DNA.

Supported with funding from the National Science Foundation and led by Jack W. Szostak of the Harvard Medical School, the research team published its findings in the June 4, 2008, edition of the journal Nature's advance online publication.

"Szostak's group took a creative approach to this research challenge and made a significant contribution to our understanding of small molecule transport through membranes," said Luis Echegoyen, director of the NSF Division of Chemistry. "This is a great outcome of NSF's support of basic research."

Some scientists have proposed that ancient hydrothermal vents may have been sites where prebiotic molecules--molecules made before the origin of life, such as fatty acids and amino acids--were formed. An animation (accessible at upper right) created by Janet Iwasa of the Szostak Laboratory shows a theoretical scenario in which fatty acids are formed on the surface of minerals deep underground, and then brought to the surface by the eruption of a geyser.

When fatty acids are in an aqueous environment, they spontaneously arrange so that their hydrophilic, or water-loving, "heads" interact with the surrounding water molecules and their hydrophobic, or water-fearing, "tails" are shielded from the water, resulting in the formation of tiny spheres of fatty acids called micelles.

Depending upon chemical concentrations and the pH of their environment, micelles can convert into layered membrane sheets or enclosed vesicles. Researchers commonly use vesicles to model the cellular membranes of protocells. A second animation created by Iwasa (accessible at lower right) shows how vesicles may have been formed.

When the team started its work, the researchers were not sure that the building blocks required for copying the protocell's genetic material would be able to enter the cell.

"By showing that this can happen, and indeed happen quite efficiently, we have come a little closer to our goal of making a functional protocell that, in the right environment, is able to grow and divide on its own," said Szostak.


'/>"/>

Contact: Jennifer A. Grasswick
jgrasswi@nsf.gov
703-292-4972
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related medicine news :

1. Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
2. Study: Kids think eyeglasses make other kids look smart
3. Think before you drink, says university research
4. Many Teen Drivers Dont Think Theyre Inexperienced
5. Teens think they have asthma under control, but benefit from new approach to treatment
6. Indoor Tanning is Not as Safe as You Think. In Fact, Its Totally Out:
7. When positive thinking leads to financial irresponsibility like compulsive gambling
8. Men More Likely to Have Problems with Memory and Thinking Skills
9. Older Americans are more socially engaged than many people may think
10. Most republicans think the US health care system is the best in the world; democrats disagree
11. Surgeons Rethink Approach to Minimal Incision Foot and Ankle Surgery
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
A new way to think about Earth's first cells
(Date:6/24/2016)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... plastic surgery procedures that most people are unfamiliar with. The article goes on to ... known procedures, but also many of these less common operations such as calf and ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) ... will receive two significant new grants to support its work to advance research ... anniversary by recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work in fighting ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Rhinebeck, NY (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Topical BioMedics, Inc, makers of ... of companies that call for a minimum wage raise to $12 an hour by 2020 ... wage. This will restore the lost value of the minimum wage, assure the wage floor ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Puradigm® ... Group (TGIG), has initiated cultivation and processing operations at its production facility, and ... Nevada. , Puradigm is the manufacturer of a complete system of proactive air ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and other difficult to transfect cells, announces ... Medium. The PluriQ™ G9™ Gene Editing System is a complete system ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 ... Oticon , industry leaders in advanced ... launch of Oticon Opn ™, the world,s first ... of possibilities for IoT devices.      (Photo: ... Oticon introduces a number of ,world firsts,: ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 The vast majority ... outpatient dialysis facility.  Treatments are usually 3 times a ... per visit, including travel time, equipment preparation and wait ... but especially grueling for patients who are elderly and ... skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers for some duration of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  Experian Health, the healthcare industry ... patient payment and care experience, today announced ... and services that will enhance the breadth ... These award-winning solutions will enable healthcare professionals ... in an ever-changing environment and redefine front-office ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: