In new research by the the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Triest, published in Physical Review Letters, Luca Giomi and Antonio DeSimone have reproduced motility in their models, by acting on a single parameter until they caused the “cells” to divide spontaneously without the action of external forces.

The result is a step forward in the creation of functioning artificial cells, as well as a better understanding of the first passages from which life on our planet developed.

Markus Ralser told VoR: “This is a very well-accepted hypothesis and there is a lot of evidence that this was the case. However, from that point you need a second step, because cells are not just growing close to a volcano or close to a primordial soup. The modern cells can self-synthesise as compounds now. There is a big question about the origins of life now: how did the cells learn to self-synthesise all these compounds?

“There are two hypotheses: one is that you have the first RNA, that you have the first genetic mechanisms in place and this allowed them to select the cells that they could then use to self-make their compounds.

“The second hypothesis came about because there were some problems with the first theory. Maybe these reaction cascades come from the chemistry of the ocean directly and the cells then took them and made them more efficient, larger and faster. The second theory was the reaction cascades existed before and they were basically hijacked by the modern cells.

“This theory has not been so far proven because people never saw the reaction cascades in the old world oceans. Now what we have seen in this latest experiment is that we have seen the reaction cascades as they are used by the modern cells to make the bio-compounds, in a pure abiotic environment and catalysed by molecules that were abundant in the old ocean.”