Register to reply

Can we create life from scratch?

by s0ft
Tags: life, scratch
Share this thread:
s0ft
#1
May16-13, 06:14 AM
P: 77
People have achieved injecting desired genetic code into bacteria. This is a big thing of course but it is far from creating life purely out of chemicals.
Assuming 'life' to be the ability to interact with the environment for benefit and to reproduce, is it possible, at least theoretically, to assemble the necessary 'life chemicals' and create a living cell?
And if it is possible, what would it speak about things like intelligence and self-awareness?
Just trying to know your opinions.
Phys.Org News Partner Biology news on Phys.org
Honey bees sting Texas man about 1,000 times
Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat
The microbes make the sake brewery
mfb
#2
May16-13, 08:49 AM
Mentor
P: 11,580
I see no reason why it should be fundamentally impossible.
It is not possible at the moment, however. Cells are not well enough understood, and too complex to assemble them molecule by molecule with current chemistry.

And if it is possible, what would it speak about things like intelligence and self-awareness?
I don't think the first fully artificial cell will show those features more than a regular unicellular organism. It would disprove vitalism completely, of course.
Simon Bridge
#3
May16-13, 08:52 AM
Homework
Sci Advisor
HW Helper
Thanks ∞
Simon Bridge's Avatar
P: 12,434
is it possible, at least theoretically, to assemble the necessary 'life chemicals' and create a living cell?
In principle... that would have to be a "yes". There is no reason to believe that one cannot start out with all-dead stuff and deliberately build some sort of living organism.

Scientifically the ability to scratch-build a living organism from non-living components says nothing at all about intelligence or self-awareness. [Could disprove a lot of ideas though.]

krash661
#4
May16-13, 08:57 AM
P: 32
Can we create life from scratch?

how does a female's(in most species) womb create it ?
that's probably a great place to start.
Ygggdrasil
#5
May16-13, 09:11 AM
Other Sci
Sci Advisor
P: 1,378
Depending on how you define life, viruses have been generated from cell-free systems (Cello et al. 2002. Chemical Synthesis of Poliovirus cDNA: Generation of Infectious Virus in the Absence of Natural Template. Science 297: 1016. doi:10.1126/science.1072266).
mfb
#6
May16-13, 09:12 AM
Mentor
P: 11,580
Quote Quote by krash661 View Post
how does a female's(in most species) womb create it ?
It does not do this. It uses existing living cells to make more living cells. That is easy to reproduce in a lab.
Ryan_m_b
#7
May16-13, 09:18 AM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,403
In principle yes but in practice our knowledge in this field is highly limited so any organism created "from scratch" would likely be cobbled together from parts of other organisms. Synthesising an already in existence genome and planting it into an empty cell is one thing, designing and building an organism not modelled on nature is quite another
Simon Bridge
#8
May16-13, 09:20 AM
Homework
Sci Advisor
HW Helper
Thanks ∞
Simon Bridge's Avatar
P: 12,434
how does a female's(in most species) womb create it ?
that's probably a great place to start.
Do most species have male and female?
Do all females have a womb?

Mammals make more mammals by assembling already living cells in a womb - so maybe not such a good place to start. But if the definition of life does not extend to the zygote, then you are on to something :)

But this sort of question is commonly asked by creationists and vitalists - "life must come from life", so knowing how a womb makes new life is unlikely to count. Leveraging the mechanisms seen in nature would also likely not count (we learned about them from life) ... making the proposition extremely difficult. Technically everything life we build from non-life comes from us and we are alive and we get bogged down in semantics.

Our bodies do need to be able to take dead stuff to make living stuff (all those cells in your body came from someplace) - all we really need is a totally artificial food, eat it (wait a bit) and you've made living stuff from stuff that was never alive.

The starting point for lab-created life would be at the really simple level - viruses and viroids perhaps.
Borek
#9
May16-13, 10:18 AM
Admin
Borek's Avatar
P: 23,363
s0ft
#10
May17-13, 08:19 AM
P: 77
It is amazing how some molecules are capable of self replication.
Simon Bridge
#11
May17-13, 07:55 PM
Homework
Sci Advisor
HW Helper
Thanks ∞
Simon Bridge's Avatar
P: 12,434
The lecture in Borek's post is an example of something that is massively frustrating - here we have someone at the front of his field, so we want to listen to him, lecturing an inherently fascinating subject, so we want to hear about it, but he does it in the most boring way possible! If someone were to deliberately try to make the Origin of Life boring, they would be hard pressed to do better than to deliver in a monotone (peppered with upwards inflections at the end of some statements of fact) with erratic pauses and lots of ums and ers.

The lecture itself is great.

The number of times I've hunted and searched for some presentation to nail a topic, only to find the delivery is counter-productive. The really good delivery items are often too pop-sciencey to be much use.

It's also the number-1 complaint from students isn't it?

(To be fair - there are bits that are easier to listen to; particularly after the half-way mark when the lecturer warms to his subject. Public speaking is hard and we can't all be Richard Feynman.)
Simon Bridge
#12
May17-13, 07:59 PM
Homework
Sci Advisor
HW Helper
Thanks ∞
Simon Bridge's Avatar
P: 12,434
Quote Quote by s0ft View Post
It is amazing how some molecules are capable of self replication.
Be that as it may ... has your question been answered? Has your topic been addressed?
Feedback is important to the sort of replies you get.
s0ft
#13
May19-13, 03:02 AM
P: 77
From the presentation, I feel I can safely take the chemical origin of life now.
But to think life can exist in totally different forms compared to that we see here on earth seems very radical to me. Sort of hard to imagine it. But I don't know, maybe there are still a lot of fundamental bits like mfb said,, that we don't know about life yet.
And thank you everybody, I didn't expect such a lot of replies to be honest, though I really hoped there'd be. But maybe the subject itself is a very interesting one and that is to be held for it.
ChrisJA
#14
May19-13, 11:28 PM
P: 42
Quote Quote by s0ft View Post
People have achieved injecting desired genetic code into bacteria. This is a big thing of course but it is far from creating life purely out of chemicals.
Assuming 'life' to be the ability to interact with the environment for benefit and to reproduce, is it possible, at least theoretically, to assemble the necessary 'life chemicals' and create a living cell?
And if it is possible, what would it speak about things like intelligence and self-awareness?
Just trying to know your opinions.
Even nature has trouble doing this. EVERY living cell was created by another living cell. None are created "from scratch". Well except once 3.5 billion years ago. But that first cell had an easy life because there was no competition. Nature could not do this again because such a primitive cell could not compete with existing life.

One way to create life might be to emulate the way if happened on Earth 3.5 billion year ago. The first "life" was just a short strip on RNA that may not have even have had a cell membrane and it likely also folded and acted as it's own enzyme. Proteins and DNA came much later. You can build a lot with just RNA. The Earth was different then, no O2 in the air. You need to recreated the ancint environment and then toss just one carefully crafted RNA segment into that environment. That is how life was created and it may be the only way possible. We don't know.
Simon Bridge
#15
May20-13, 12:08 AM
Homework
Sci Advisor
HW Helper
Thanks ∞
Simon Bridge's Avatar
P: 12,434
Even nature has trouble doing this. EVERY living cell was created by another living cell. None are created "from scratch". Well except once 3.5 billion years ago.
Probably many many times 3.5-4.5 billion years ago.
You need to recreated the ancint environment and then toss just one carefully crafted RNA segment into that environment.
... and wait for a long long time ;)
s0ft
#16
May20-13, 06:13 AM
P: 77
...and wait for a long long time
It makes me think, given enough time, is it possible that anything that can happen, will happen?
And was it just luck that the right sequence of these molecules started getting together or would it be more accurate to say that over the interval of time presented, it was destined?
Borek
#17
May20-13, 06:22 AM
Admin
Borek's Avatar
P: 23,363
The way evolution works it is enough that you have something that barely works - if it multiplies and compete for resources, it will get optimized over time. Doesn't mean everything will happen. Once you have something that works slightly better than barely, newcomers - which are still just barely working - won't be able to outcompete it. So you can probably start only once.
Ryan_m_b
#18
May20-13, 06:38 AM
Mentor
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,403
Quote Quote by s0ft View Post
It makes me think, given enough time, is it possible that anything that can happen, will happen?
And was it just luck that the right sequence of these molecules started getting together or would it be more accurate to say that over the interval of time presented, it was destined?
Destined is the wrong way to think about it. More like certain environmental conditions allow for a higher probability of self-replicating molecules forming so over long time periods (as long as the environment doesn't change) it is more likely to happen.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
QM from scratch Quantum Physics 2
Create life Biology 20
Starting Again from Scratch Academic Guidance 4
Can scientists 'create' life yet? Biology 30
Be god, create first life Chemistry 3