Origin of life: Oparin’s abiogenic hypothesis. Dissemination 41st
Next april 12th will be the 33rd anniversary of the death of Alexander Oparin (1894 -1980) , russian biochemist and pioneer of the development of biochemistry's hypothesis about the life origin on earth.
In Veterinaria Digital we want to do a tribute to this scientific because of their contribution to a basic theme of our Disclosure’s blog. Their investigation opened a new way that has permitted, with some tweaks, explain the apparition of the different cells that form the nowadays pluricellular beings and the knowledge of the metagenetic mechanisms that allow cell reaction to external stimulus. We recognize that their studies have loopholes about the origin of DNA and RNA and about the mechanisms of how these molecules take the control of the processes developed inside the cellular membrane.
Studies about coacervates, realized by A. Oparin in 1936, hypothesized about the development of the life through a progression of organic compounds from simple to self-replicating complex (some discovered by J. Watson and F. Crick in 1953 and baptized as DNA.
In order to clarify, we will reproduce in 12 points the testify that A.Oparin wrote in his main work, “The Origin of Life on Earth” (1936):
(1) The question related to the origin of life, or apparition over the Earth of the first living beings, belongs to the group of problems more important and basic of the Natural Sciences. All the people, whatever are their cultural skills, think about this problem more or less consciously, and in a better or a worst way, they will produce an answer, without this answer we cannot conceive the world.
(2) The History shows to us that the problem of the life origin attracts the attention of the Humanity since ancient times. There’s no philosophic or religious system without work in this thought. In each different period and during each one of the different stages in the development of the culture, this problem has been solved with different norms. However, in all the cases has constituted the center of a fight between two irreconcilable philosophies: idealism and materialism.
(3) In the beginnings of the last century this fight acquire new forces, due to Natural Sciences were unable to find a rational solution to the problem of the life origin, although in other terrains had achieved brilliant exits. They were in a point of no return. The cause were that until the second mid of the last century, without exception, they were obstinate in solve this problem through the spontaneous generation. It means that living beings may be generated not only by similar others, if not also in a primary way, spontaneously, from objects of Inorganic Nature, and in a first instant with a complex organization and perfectly ended. This point of view was defended by idealists and by materialists, limiting the discussion exclusively to the causes or forces that conditionate the genesis.
(4) Talking about idealists, all the living beings, including the man, have arisen primarily, with a structure more or less equal in comparison with the structure nowadays they have, thanks to the action of animic supramaterial forces.
(5) In the other hand, the naturalists and the materialist philosophers, thought that life, and the rest of the universe, is from material nature, without the existence of a spiritual principle to explain them. In consequence, due to spontaneous generation is a fact evident for them, the question is limited to interpret this phenomenon as the result of natural laws, rejecting all intervention of supernatural forces. They thought that the correct form to solve the problem of the life origin consisted in study, with all the scientific means, all the cases of spontaneous generation in nature or in the laboratory.
(6) However, different observations and experiences carefully made and particulary, the ones from Louis Pasteur, demonstrate definitely the lie about the fact of the spontaneous generation of living beings, even the most elementary, from inert material. It was established with absolutely certainty that all the previous findings were thanks to methodological errors, of an incorrect experimental approach or of an superficial interpretation of the experiments.
(7) This neutralized the naturalists that thought in the spontaneous generation as the only possible way to origin the life. The discovery of Pasteur negate the possibility to solve this question in an experimental way. This leads to their to a pessimistic conclusion and said that the problem of the life origin was damn, and the study was a loss of time and unworthy of a serious researcher.
(8) As a result of that, several naturalists of our century experimented a deep crisis of ideas. This way, some of them tried to avoid this matter, proposing, for example, that life never would have had a beginning and that the first living creatures had been translated to the Earth from any exterior point: from the surface of more or less distant planets. Other naturalists were keeping more idealist opinions and considered this problem like an heritage of Faith and not of Science. Of course, the origin of this crisis was not in the essence of the problem, but in the incorrect procedure as the method they choose to solve it.
(9) The enormous value of Darwin in Biology was to break with the traditional method, metaphisic, used to solve the matter of the origin of actual animal and vegetal species. Darwin clarified that extremily organized living creatures may only reached from an organism evolution process, in which way the most primitive ones became other ones more raised. Human appearance or any other hihgly organized organism seems unbelieveable out of this evolution process, unless we would think about overnatural factors or spiritual of any kind.
(10) It has been in our age, coming from a generalization of all accumulate material by Natural Sciences during XX century, when it has been reached the drawing of the evolutive development of materia, approaching to exactly determine the probably ages that tis process has followed until the appearance of life. In consequence, big possibilities have become open for the experimental study of biogenesis problem.
(11) In the following lines, we will try to expose first of all, the diferent routes followed by human intellect and its determination to solve the problem of biogenesis. We will briefly show all kinds of doctrines and theories made through lots of centuries. We will principally focus on the gradual description of materia, which, in our opinion, drove to the appearance of life in this planet.
(12) The primitive atmosphere was composed by hidrogen, metane, ammonia and water vapour. This gaseous mix, due to the action of sunbeams, became a big sort of organic molecules, which may fall in the oceans and there they may acccumulate during long periods of time without risk of decomposing, forming a “nutritive stock”. Molecules would have associated among them, forming molecular joints, each time more complex ones, with a concrete structure, which is a protobiont and we can name it coacervated. Coacervated with autosynthesis capability (own food producers) would evolve to someones more stables and complex each time until converting to real living structures. These primordial organisms would had evolved, during millions of years, to the vegetal and animal world of our planet.
In 1968 Alexander Oparin reformulated his hypothesis giving to natural selection an immediate action over the new molecules which were coming to appear. This was the way he presented the concept of prebiotic natural selection, the one that was included as an element to his abiogenic hypothesis over the origin of life in the planet.