Experiments have shown that it is remarkably easy for protein-like, two-dimensional structures — amyloids — to form from basic building blocks. This discovery supports the researchers’ hypothesis that primal life could have evolved from amyloids such as these.
But then we learn:
The ETH scientists stress, however, that there is still an important piece of the puzzle missing from their argument in support of the “amyloid hypothesis”: Are amyloids also capable of self-replication, just like RNA molecules? This is conceivable, claim Riek and Greenwald, but there is still no experimental evidence to support it. The professor and his team are working on it.
And then we suddenly hear, almost for the first time, what’s wrong with RNA world, also known as Settled Science:
Even so, the researchers already describe their hypothesis as being much more plausible than the decades-old scientific assumption that the precursors of life were made up solely of RNA molecules. The scientists’ main contention: RNA molecules with a biological function are comparatively large and complex. “They are so big that it would have been difficult for them to form spontaneously. Even with far simpler structures, amyloids exhibit certain chemical functions,” says Greenwald. On top of that, the building blocks of RNA are more complex than those of amyloids and proteins. Furthermore, the latter are more stable even under harsh environmental conditions. “All this makes it plausible that the first functional molecules were amyloids,” concludes Professor Riek. Paper. (public access) – Michael P. Friedmann, Vladimir Torbeev, Viviane Zelenay, Alexander Sobol, Jason Greenwald, Roland Riek. Towards Prebiotic Catalytic Amyloids Using High Throughput Screening. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (12): e0143948 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143948 More.
See also: New Scientist: Researcher suggests molecules like Alzheimer plaques may have powered early life (Korendovych’s latest research points to amyloids as a potential solution.)
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Amyloids play a role in Alzheimer syndrome, which is how most people come to know of them: