FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GFT Group Incorporated
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JIGSAW MODEL OF THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

(Mountain View, CA) - (April 7, 2002) - A new theory of the origin of life, the jigsaw model of the origin of life, has been presented at the Biennial Astrobiology Science Conference, April 7-11, 2002 at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California by John F. McGowan, a Scientist with GFT Group Incorporated, a private research and development company, and published in the proceedings of the Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV conference. The theory proposes that life originated when a large molecule fragmented into several smaller molecules due to partial decomposition in water or other chemical reactions.

All existing life on Earth depends on machine-like matching shapes and chemical affinities at a molecular scale. DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids, sugars, and other biological molecules work together to produce life in a strikingly machine-like fashion. The molecular components of life are often said to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Scientists have been able to produce molecular building blocks such as amino acids in origin of life experiments for many years. Scientists have also been able to simulate the polymerization of these molecular building blocks into more complex polymers. However, few means to create a machine-like system of molecules under plausible origin of life conditions have been found. The probability of the production of even two molecules with matching shapes and chemical affinities by independent, random polymerization is essentially zero.

In mechanical systems, parts with tightly matching shapes can be produced by cutting a single parent piece into two or more matching pieces. This is a common way to make a jigsaw puzzle. It is used in the design and manufacture of machines. It also occurs in nature when a rock or crystal is fragmented by an impact. Complex, machine-like systems such as geysers are produced naturally when upwelling hydrothermal forces shatter layers of rock.

The jigsaw model of the origin of life proposes that complex living systems of interacting molecules with matching shapes and chemical affinities may have been produced when large molecules fragmented due to partial decomposition in water, known technically as hydrolysis, or partial decomposition by other chemical reactions.

Reference: John F. McGowan, III, "Jigsaw model of the origin of life", in Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, Richard B. Hoover, Gilbert V. Levin, Roland R. Paepe, Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editors, Proceedings of the SPIE Vol. 4495, pp. 199-210 (2002) (http://www.jmcgowan.com/JigsawPreprint.pdf)

For further information, contact John McGowan at (650) 961-1429 or by e-mail at jmcgowan11@earthlink.net

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