Bioelectric Fields at the Beginnings of Life

Author: Alistair V W Nunn1, Geoffrey W Guy2, Jimmy D Bell1
1 Research Centre for Optimal Health, Department of Life Sciences, University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom.
2 The Guy Foundation, Chedington, Dorset, United Kingdom.
Conference/Journal: Bioelectricity
Date published: 2022 Dec 1
Other: Volume ID: 4 , Issue ID: 4 , Pages: 237-247 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/bioe.2022.0012. , Word Count: 343

The consensus on the origins of life is that it involved organization of prebiotic chemicals according to the underlying principles of thermodynamics to dissipate energy derived from photochemical and/or geochemical sources. Leading theories tend to be chemistry-centric, revolving around either metabolism or information-containing polymers first. However, experimental data also suggest that bioelectricity and quantum effects play an important role in biology, which might suggest that a further factor is required to explain how life began. Intriguingly, in the early part of 20th century, the concept of the "morphogenetic field" was proposed by Gurwitsch to explain how the shape of an organism was determined, while a role for quantum mechanics in biology was suggested by Bohr and Schrödinger, among others. This raises the question as to the potential of these phenomena, especially bioelectric fields, to have been involved in the origin of life. It points to the possibility that as bioelectricity is universally prevalent in biological systems today, it represents a more complex echo of an electromagnetic skeleton which helped shape life into being. It could be argued that as a flow of ions creates an electric field, this could have been pivotal in the formation of an energy dissipating structure, for instance, in deep sea thermal vents. Moreover, a field theory might also hint at the potential involvement of nontrivial quantum effects in life. Not only might this perspective help indicate the origins of morphogenetic fields, but also perhaps suggest where life may have started, and whether metabolism or information came first. It might also help to provide an insight into aging, cancer, consciousness, and, perhaps, how we might identify life beyond our planet. In short, when thinking about life, not only do we have to consider the accepted chemistry, but also the fields that must also shape it. In effect, to fully understand life, as well as the yin of accepted particle-based chemistry, there is a yang of field-based interaction and an ethereal skeleton.

Keywords: bioelectricity; mitochondria; origins of life; quantum mechanics; thermal vents; thermodynamics.

PMID: 36636557 PMCID: PMC9810354 DOI: 10.1089/bioe.2022.0012