Design of conditions for emergence of self-replicators.
A self-replicator is usually understood to be an object of definite form that promotes the conversion of materials in its environment into a nearly identical copy of itself. The challenge of engineering novel, micro- or nano-scale self-replicators has attracted keen interest in recent years, both because exponential amplification is an attractive method for generating high yields of specific products, and also because self-reproducing entities have the potential to be optimized or adapted through rounds of iterative selection. Substantial steps forward have been achieved both in the engineering of particular self-replicating molecules, and also in characterizing the physical basis for possible mechanisms of self-replication. At present, however, there is need for a theoretical treatment of what physical conditions are most conducive to the emergence of novel self-replicating structures from a reservoir of building blocks on a desired time-scale. Here we report progress in addressing this need. By analyzing the dynamics of a generic class of heterogeneous particle mixtures whose reaction rates emerge from basic physical interactions, we demonstrate that the spontaneous discovery of self-replication is controlled by relatively generic features of the chemical space, namely: the dispersion in the distribution of reaction timescales and bound-state energies. Based on this analysis, we provide quantitative criteria that may aid experimentalists in designing a system capable of producing self-replicators, and in estimating the likely timescale for exponential growth to start.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1709.09191