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:5/4/2016)... ... May 04, 2016 , ... Nike Rugby Camp's success is due ... Diego. Willis, founder of Elite Rugby Camps and current Nike Camp director, has offered ... since 2009. , ā€œIā€™m excited for our eighth summer here in San Diego,ā€ ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... ... Washington Wellness Center today announced its tenth anniversary of providing a complete approach to ... idea to provide a holistic approach to wellness has now become a growing trend ... Chiropractic Physician , the wellness center offers a complete range of services such ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... Watsonville, California (PRWEB) , ... May 04, 2016 ... ... powerful formulation of foundational nutrients that supports cellular and metabolic health. This synergistic ... and 400 mg free-form curcumin, along with 150 mg of reduced glutathione and ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... 04, 2016 , ... The preeminent surgical aftercare facility Pearl Recovery Retreat was ... surgery. In March 2016, the 61-year-old model and reality TV star was diagnosed with ... the milk ducts, according to an interview with the Daily Mail Online . ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... May 04, 2016 , ... Warren L. Smith M.D. , There ... UTIs, have plagued people since the beginning of recorded medical history, and in ... every year. It's not just a matter of inconvenience; bladder infections cost us billions ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:5/2/2016)... Leading Economies with Fastest Real GDP Annual Percentage Change, 2015  ... India 7.3, , Source: IMF and TechSci Research   ... Brazil , Russia , India ... registered the fastest GDP growth during the first decade of the 21 st ... Brazil and Russia , along with ...
(Date:5/2/2016)...  While nearly three-quarters of Americans (71%) are aware ... health, only about half report taking any steps to ... a new survey announced today by Hologic (Nasdaq: ... Osteoporosis Month, Hologic is raising awareness of this major ... Americans. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes ...
(Date:5/2/2016)... The global  ultrasound device ... by 2024, according to a new report published ... the sonography market include expanding applications of the ... periodic ultrasound screenings of the breast for breast ... ) High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: