Through a rather simple chemical reaction, chemists at the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University have created self-assembling cell membranes, these pre-cursors to artificially creating life. Though it might not sit well with the god-fearing citizens of Earth, these chemists, Neal Devaraj and Itay Budin, have published a report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society which details their important step in creating an artificial cell. Should they succeed, they’ll be the first (or the second if you count the big bang and its good friends here on the planet, to create a living organism from non-living molecules.
The big point here is that should we find that we’re able to create life without using already living cells (this is were we currently are with cloning), the possibilities will be endless in the fields of chemistry and greater science, not to mention in religious beliefs worldwide. As Devaraj says on the process:
“In our system, we use a sort of primitive catalyst, a very simple metal ion. The reaction itself is completely artificial. There’s no biological equivalent of this chemical reaction. This is how you could have a de novo formation of membranes.” – Devaraj
He also commented on the need for this type of study and what they hope to attain:
“We don’t understand this really fundamental step in our existence, which is how non-living matter went to living matter. So this is a really ripe area to try to understand what knowledge we lack about how that transition might have occurred. That could teach us a lot – even the basic chemical, biological principles that are necessary for life.” – Devaraj
Right now there’s already been scientists who have announced they’ve created a synthetic cell, but they’ve only got an artificial genome with a “hijacked” bacteria cell to work with it. To create a fully artificial life form, there will need to be a union taking place between an info-carrying genome and a 3D structure to hold it. This newest discovery is for the structure, the cell membrane, and can be constructed with essentially just one step.
“It’s trivial and can be done in a day. New people who join the lab can make membranes from day one.” – Devaraj
We’ll see about that, science, we’ll see how awesome your artificial cell pockets are when they’re filled with artificial genomes that aim to destroy the world. It’s inevitable of course, as any science fiction story will tell you.