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Life-emulating molecules show basic metabolism

Work from the Otto-lab has resulted in a chemical system that shows different properties of life. Through oxidation, basic building blocks join to form rings of different sizes (left, middle and top). Eventually, rings of six building blocks (16) form stacks. These stacks grow, and multiply by breaking, leading to replication of the six-membered rings. When a photosensitive dye attaches to the stacks and is activated by light, it acts as a cofactor by increasing the oxidation of building blocks, which speeds up the production of new rings from which the replicator stacks grow. Credit: Otto Lab, University of Groningen In a system with self-replicating molecules, previously shown to have the capability to grow, divide and evolve, chemists from the University of Groningen have now discovered catalytic capabilities that result in a basic metabolism. Furthermore, they linked a light-sensitive dye to the molecules, which enabled them to use light energy to power growth. These findings, which bring artificial life one step closer, were published simultaneously in the journals Nature Chemistry and Nature Catalysis on 26 June.

Ten years ago, Sijbren Otto, Professor of Systems Chemistry at the University of Groningen’s Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, discovered a new mechanism for self-replication: […]

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