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LANL Brings Life to Television

On Tuesday October 18th, 2005,  the PBS program NOVA Science Now featured work at LANL that attempts to generate artificial life. The segment included an interview with Steen Rasmussen of Earth and Environmental Science division about a project on protocell assembly that involves collaboration between personnel in T, MST, D, EES and C divisions. Rasmussen is the project leader. Jim Boncella, Gavin Collis, Mike DeClue, Jim Bailey, and Woody Woodruff are the Chemistry Division personnel involved in the project.  Collis was prominently featured in a Chemistry division lab operating a rotovap and working in a hood.  Steen discussed the possibility of generating a self-replicating chemical machine and was arguing that this will probably happen sometime soon. 

The goal of the project is to assemble a self-replicating chemical machine with a rudimentary metabolic system that converts a chemical food source to more material of the protocell, and which also has a genetic system that is involved in regulating the metabolism.  Thus far, the team has been able to use photoelectron transfer to cleave a lipid precursor using a Ru complex as a photocatalyst and ferrocene as an electron donor.  Ultimately, they are hoping to use guanine or one of its derivatives that is a part of a peptide nucleic acid (PNA) as the electron donor that will cause the cleavage of the lipid precursor.  Because of its ability to self-assemble, the lipid formed in this reaction will become part of a new protocell container thus connecting the “genetic material” with the reaction that is the metabolism. 

Find out more about the episode, when to watch a rebroadcast, and more at  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3214/01.html

Contact: James Boncella
Group: C-SIC



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