A NASA-funded team of researchers has developed tools to predict how life will evolve.

In the new work, the authors have identified universal chemical patterns in the development of life, which, apparently, do not depend on specific molecules.

We need new tools to identify and predict the features of the emergence and development of life. To do this, we seek to define universal laws that can be applied to any biochemical system.

Imari Walker, external professor at the Santa Fe Sarah Institute

On Earth, life arose as a result of the interaction of hundreds of chemical compounds and reactions. Some of them are found in many organisms on Earth.

The authors used an integrated database of microbial genomes and microbiomes to explore the enzymes of bacteria, archaea, and eukaria. The goal is to reveal a new kind of biochemical universality.

Enzymes can be divided into groups based on what they do, from using water molecules to break chemical bonds (hydrolases), rearranging molecular structures (isomerases) to joining large molecules together (ligases).

The team compared how the number of enzymes in each of these functional categories changed relative to the total number of enzymes in the body. They found that there are different scaling laws between the number of enzymes and the size of an organism’s genome.

Here we found out that there are scalable relationships between enzymes. There is no need for any particular one. You need a certain number of transferases, but not specific transferases.

Chris Kempes, article co-author

The authors believe that these scaling laws can extend to the entire Universe. Including the process of the origin of life.