Scientists have created lifelike cells are made of metal. That’s right folks, science just got even more awesome.

Scientists have created lifelike cells are made of metal. That’s right folks, science just got even

more awesome.

One of the greatest challenges facing scientists in the search for life is figuring out what life is and where it can thrive.

As you’re probably aware, all life on Earth is carbon-based. Carbon is an extremely versatile element, so it provides a perfect foundation for life to form and

evolve. However, does that mean that carbon is the only element that can support life? Previously, scientists believed that life could form from other

elements. But now we have some evidence to support this hypothesis.

Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow has successfully created lifelike cells out

of metal, such as tungsten (atomic number of 74). If creating lifelike metal wasn’t a big enough feat, Cronin also has reason to believe his metallic life is

evolving. To that end, he has stated that he believes he can get evolution to work outside of ‘organic’ biology.

Cronin’s metallic cells are constructed

from large polyoxometalates. An entire article could be devoted to explaining what a polyoxometalates is, suffice I to say, it is a structure consisting of

three or more transition metal oxyanions.

Cronin has successfully gotten his cells to assemble into bubbly spheres that he calls Inorganic Chemical

Cells, or iCHELLs. It takes more than a bubble structure to be cell-like and, more importantly, alive. Cronin has compared his iCHELLs to organic cells noting

that the iCHELLs possess an outer membrane that is able to select and separate chemicals allowing them inside or letting them outside the cell’s structure

based on the chemical’s size. Altogether, not much different than the function a cell wall provides in organic cells.

The iCHELLs also have the ability

to evolve; at least, that’s what Cronin claims. He has embarked on a seven month experiment where he has put his iCHELLs into different environments in the

hopes they will evolve separately from one another, adapting themselves to the specific environments in which they were placed – much in the same way organic

cells do.

Whether or not Cronin’s metallic cells are eventually classified as being alive, he has made very important and historic advances in our

understanding of what life is and the materials with which it can form. If Cronin, or other scientists, are able to build on this work and successfully create

fully-living non-carbon-based cells, the implications would be staggering. All of the sudden, the odds of life forming elsewhere in the universe greatly

increase because it has more building blocks to play with.





Sources and further

reading:

Scientist creates lifelike cells out of metal:
http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/scientist-

creates-lifelike-cells-out-of-metal#

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Donovan Crow
Donovan Crow
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