How can life originate from a lifeless chemical soup? This question has puzzled scientists since Darwin's 'Origin of species'. Stratingh Institute chemistry professor Sijbren Otto studies 'chemical evolution' to see if self-organization and autocatalysis will provide the answer. His research group previously developed self-replicating molecules—molecules that can make copies of themselves—and have now observed diversification in replicator mutants. They found that if you start with one ancestral set of replicator mutants, a second set will branch off spontaneously. This means that ecological diversity as encountered in biology may well have its roots at the molecular level. The results were published on Jan. 4, 2016, in Nature Chemistry.
Prof Otto was also interviewed by national television (EenVandaag - NPO) here.
More information:Jan W. Sadownik, Elio Mattia, Piotr Nowak and Sijbren Otto: Diversification of self-replicating molecules. Nature Chemistry, Advanced Online Publication Jan. 4, 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2419
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