Where does life begin?

Spectrum Podcast: Where Does Life Start?

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The new spectrum podcast is dedicated to the bottom-up biology. She wants to get to the bottom of life: To do this, researchers build living cells from individual components. They take natural molecules such as lipids, proteins, carbohydrates - the basic building blocks that make up life - and try to create a living cell from them piece by piece.

A liposome (a kind of vesicle with a shell similar to that of a cell membrane), which comes very close to a "real" cell with its closed rectal space, is filled with molecules until life is created.

There are many starting points for this research: For example, it could help identify life in space. Because life could theoretically also consist of other facets than on earth.

That's an exciting question. Can life perhaps also be realized in a completely different way, with completely different molecules, for example? (Frank Schubert)

On the other hand, research on artificial life is also exciting for medicine: How can cells, for example, be made resistant to viruses?

In all of this, the question arises: Where does life begin? It is not easy to answer. Life has different characteristics. For science, for example, reproduction alone is far from being a criterion for life. In the end, it boils down to three categories, says Spektrum editor Frank Schubert: compartmentalization, i. H. Subdivision into reaction spaces, metabolism, i.e. operating metabolism, and a form of information processing.

Anyone who researches the principle of life always raises ethical questions: Is such a living cell from the laboratory an invention? Even patentable? So-called »enhancement« (ie: improvements) already exist, for example in the fight against tumor cells. But at the latest when it becomes hereditary, a limit has been crossed for many ethicists, says Schubert.