Clay Bubbles Could Have Formed First Cells

The claybubble theory of the origin of life is the latest idea on Jack Szostak’s old fatbubble theory that was first reported in Sept. 2004.[1] In this new version of the story also reported in,[2] Howard Stone and Anand Bala Subramaniam imagine air bubbles armored with montmorillonite, a clay mineral.

Stone said,

“If there is a benefit to being protected in a clay vesicle, this is a natural way to favor and select for molecules that can self-organize.”

He did not explore whether selection can operate without accurate replication (see online book).  He also did not speculate on how the building blocks became one-handed[3] (see online book), or what might happen if a deadly toxin happened to grab the one-way key to the interior.[4]

Harvard Grad student Subramaniam adds his own further speculation:

“Whether clay vesicles could have played a significant role in the origins of life is of course unknown, but the fact that they are so robust, along with the well-known catalytic properties of clay, suggests that they may have had some part to play.”

The advantage of claybubbles is one-way osmosis, allowing small “building block” molecules to get in, but keeping the complex molecules evolving inside protected, assuming they could self-organize into life somehow.  It does not appear either of them speculated on whether sand grains, soap bubbles, or lava might also qualify for the suggestion that they may have had some part to play.[5]

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