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The hypercycle is a theoretical basis of life


The prerequisites of molecular self-organisation
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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These three prerequisites: the reproduction, replication... the replicative reproduction, the mutation, and the metabolism are the prerequisites of molecular self-organisation into living systems. There come other prerequisites of a more specific nature when enzymes develop the longer, as I say, it's as long as the machines... so long as the information bands become the more precise, you have to do the reproduction... more complicated the enzyme machinery becomes. This was the recognition in the '71 paper.

[Q] And it somehow was triggered also by the basic idea of Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer who wanted you to get into biology much, much earlier...


[Q] But this...

It was a different type of reactions he was interested in, as I said mainly connected with nerve conduction, the conduction of nerve pulses, but this is the basis of life. Now, then I mentioned what comes out from these properties is what I call the quasispecies. In other words it's a distribution of mutants which is stable, doesn't lose its average information content and develops up to optimal reproduction.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: replicative reproduction, mutation, metabolism, nerve conduction, nerve pulses, quasispecies, Karl-Friedrich Bonhoeffer

Duration: 1 minute, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008