Projects per year
We characterize living systems as resilient "chemical organizations", i.e. self-maintaining networks of reactions that are able to resist a wide range of perturbations. Dissipative structures, such as flames or convection cells, are also self-maintaining, but much less resilient. We try to understand how life could have originated from such self-organized structures, and evolved further, by acquiring various mechanisms to increase resilience. General mechanisms include negative feedback, buffering of resources, and degeneracy (producing the same resources via different pathways). Specific mechanisms use catalysts, such as enzymes, to enable reactions that deal with specific perturbations. This activity can be regulated by "memory" molecules, such as DNA, which selectively produce catalysts when needed. We suggest that major evolutionary transitions take place when living cells of different types or species form a higher-order organization by specializing in different functions and thus minimizing interference between their reactions.