Proposed mathematical model could help to know the origin of life; Research

Researchers have proposed a mathematical model helping in expressing the origin of life on Earth at first place.

This research has been published online in the journal Acta Biotheoretica.

Among many of the theories involving the origin of life are those that involve genetics-first and metabolism-first but all the theories have a common thing that is the network of molecules that came together to work together and starting their own replication. However, this network of molecules is one of the greatest mysteries that how they came together and started working together?

Early life on Earth

“Some say it’s equivalent to a tornado blowing through a junkyard and assembling the random pieces of metal and plastic into a Boeing 747,” said co-author Wim Hordijk, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina, and a participant in an astrobiology meeting held there last year.

In the previous research in 2004, Hordijk and colleague Mike Steel of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand proposed with the help of a mathematical model that such molecular networks could be formed much easily as previously thought. Now, Hordijk, Steel, and colleague Stuart Kauffman of the University of Vermont have worked on the molecular network and found a possible mechanism through which they could have come together and started working together to form the first units of life.

“It turns out that if you look at the structure of the networks of molecules [in our models], very often they’re composed of smaller subsets of molecules with the same self-perpetuating capabilities,” Hordijk explained.

Their mathematical model indicates that the subsets of molecules could come together to form large and complex networks by combining, splitting and recombining the subunits.

Researchers wrote,

All this is perhaps rather speculative, but at the same time we believe that these ideas are worth pursuing and developing further. In fact, the theory of autocatalytic sets, as we have only begun to formulate in the context of the origin of life, could perhaps be generalized into a theory of functional organization, and possibly also of emergence (collections of autocatalytic sets forming meta-autocatalytic sets). If so, this would open up multiple new areas of research, with many exciting prospects. As such, a “generalized theory of autocatalytic sets” might indeed fulfill such a promise.


Wim Hordijk, Mike Steel, Stuart Kauffman, (2012). The structure of autocatalytic sets: evolvability, enablement, and emergence. Acta Biotheoretica, DOI: 10.1007/s10441-012-9165-1.

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