“What is life?” is a question that has occupied mankind for thousands of years. We propose to look at this question in a new way, starting from the realization that a living cell is a bag of molecules. The question then is: How does a bag of molecules become alive? “Life” is not a property of any molecule in particular but arises from the large number of interactions between molecules. More specifically, it emerges from the large number of reactions that are all connected to one another via shared reactants. In this project, we will use small model reaction networks that will tell us more about the precise behavior of such networks. How does functionality emerge in such systems and how does it “die away”? Addressing these questions will shed light on how the earliest form of life might have arisen from a non-living soup of chemical reactions.
Wilhelm Huck, Radboud University