Research professor David Deamer’s work led to the exciting discovery of lipid material in meteorites that are capable of “self-assembly” into membranous material, a key step in understanding the first cell membrane formation. He explains this and other life-origin elements, such as
David Deamer is a Research Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz. In this podcast he begins with the early days of his research, including a sabbatical in England when he worked with Dr. Alec D. Bangham, the inventor of liposomes, which are essentially drug delivery compounds made from lipids. Deamer and Bangham realized no one had figured out where membranes came from in the beginnings of life. That began a decade-long research project that included meteorites, lipids, astrobiology, and biomolecular engineering research.
After he explains this discovery of “self-assembly” of membrane formation from these meteor lipids, he describes his current research, including steps toward understanding how a cell membrane might surround these other cell elements. He describes how monomers lead to polymers, which lead to amino acids and how nucleic acids eventually arise. He also gets specific about the steps of life and how his research now anticipates the beginnings of metabolism and RNA catalyzation.
For more information, he advises searching the NASA website for astrobiology information. In addition, a journal called Astrobiology can be found at major academic research libraries and Nature and Science magazines publish exciting papers as well.