In 1980, at the age of 71, Cordón stopped performing experimental work and set up the Foundation for Research on Evolutionist Biology, a research centre whose sole goal was, to carry out theoretical biological research. In the foundation that he set up he spent his last nineteen years of scientific activity, with the collaboration of a small group of researchers.
During these years of theoretical work the author researched and wrote the first two volumes of Part Two of his treatise, which was dedicated to the origin, nature and evolution of cells and their associations. Volume I, on the origin and nature of the cell, and the long Volume II, on the first stage of cellular evolution, that of the primitive cell with the metabolism common to all cells (in which he analyzed the data of biochemistry).
Volume I, on the origin and nature of the cell, must be considered as the essential book of his work, because in it he achieved his conclusive definition of the living being and thus his contribution to what had long been considered the essential condition for the proper development of current biology, an order of concepts proper to biological events that prevented their interpretation from being reduced to the molecular level.
For five years, from 1978 to 1983, Cordón carried out research on the origin and nature of the cell.
In this work he presented a detailed and specific model of the phylogenic origin of the cell, and laid out the consecutive selective advantages through which a culminating association of proteins was transformed into the originary cell, which must have been structured as a simple cellular membrane with all the properties that are common to the membranes of all current cells. Evolutions Treatise of biology. Part Second. Volume I (pp. 1-425).
Then, based on his model of the emergence of the first cell, he laid out a model of the nature of the cell, that is, he proposed a model of how the cellular psyche (a field of hydrogen ions in the layer of phospholipids of certain membrane proteins) can be established, instant by instant, from the activity of the proteins of its soma. The model explains how the psyche of all cells, at each instant, can: 1) perceive the state of their environment as a result of the contrast of what it expects and what it obtains from it, through the activity of the proteins of its soma, and 2) react to the result of this contrast -seeking its maximum ephemeral stability- with the consequence of varying its field of hydrogen ions. This variation is taken as a guide by the proteins of its soma and causes a change in the cellular action to make it more adapted to the state of the environment.
In this book of the Treatise Cordón presented an interpretation of how the psyche of all cells emerges from the proteins associated with their soma without the proteins perceiving the cellular psyche, and how the psyche of the cell governs the intensity of the activity of the proteins of its soma without the cellular psyche being aware of the existence of the somatic proteins. The result is that the cell perform the actions in each moment of its whole life that take full advantage of the constantly changing cellular environment. An introduction to the emergence of an integrative unit in each moment of ontogeny.
“A problem of a new type (because we were unaware of any precedent in the scientific literature and because, in Part One, I had not had data, I had not even considered it when I investigated the origin and nature of the protoplasmic individual) was that of inducing how, when the associative activity between the globular proteins of the precellular heterotrophic association reached its evolutive climax, something new and clearly different emerged from this activity. The problem was that of understanding through its origin the physical nature and the internal dynamism of something imponderable that began to control the recently emerged joint associative activity of the globular proteins of the precellular association, i.e. it became a focus of action and experience of a new (cellular) level capable of coordinating the activity of the multiple foci of the lower level that, once the higher level is established, have no alternative but to obey it, to take it as a guide.”
At the Foundation for Research on Evolutionist Biology (FIBE), Madrid, 1986
Cordón induced that the achievement of the first stage of cellular evolution must have been the development of the metabolism common to all current cells.
The author applied the model of the originary cell, a small cellular membrane, in order to study its evolution towards a cell with an incipient cytoplasm, a cell that he called the heterotrophic cell with a metabolism, which through explicable selective advantages came to differentiate all the types of metabolic proteins that establish the metabolism that is common to all current cells.
The efficacy of the cell model that Cordón had achieved previously was demonstrated when it allowed him to reinterpret the data of biochemistry on the cellular metabolism more coherently than the prevailing explanation. This analysis formed the subject of the long Part Second, Volume II of the Treatise (pp. 681-1592).
Here are some of the progresses achieved in the study of the first evolutive stage of the cell, that of the heterotrophic cell with a metabolism:
Firstly, his conviction that the first cell must have fed on residues of associations of proteins led him to postulate that the first metabolic sector that developed must have been that of the amino acids (which formed the proteins) and then the sector of fats and sugars, which must have been based on that of the amino acids. The efficacy of his analysis of the cellular metabolism confirmed this postulate. Chomin Cunchillos,The main stages of the cellular metabolism. An approximation to the study of the metabolism.
Secondly, he performed the monographic analysis of each of the metabolic transformations of the metabolism that are common to all current cells, for which he followed a schema of representation. This analysis allowed him to specify how each enzymatic protein governs its specific reaction: it recognises its metabolites one by one, it moves them to a place of its soma (the “active centre”), it coordinates them in a suitable arrangement and at interatomic distances, and it causes in them movements of electrons such that they systematically produce a given chemical reaction. The application of this analysis shows that each metabolic transformation depends on the one that precedes it and the one that follows it on its pathway: from the time when it is taken up from the external water to the time when it is expelled into it, all metabolites are always under the control of a protein. This analysis forced him to revise the current interpretation of the kinetics of enzymes, which reduces enzymes to simple molecules with a catalyst function. Chomin Cunchillos, Interpretation of the enzymatic function of proteins based on the theory of integrative level units.
Thirdly, he interpreted the function that must have been played by the cellular metabolism from its beginnings: achieving the maximum degradation of the amino acids obtained from the environment. In this cell that feeds on amino acids, the metabolism could not have been applied to replenishing its proteins but must have been at the service of establishing the action decided by the cell, as an intracellular gradient of molar concentration capable of adapting itself in a movement of water that attracted nutrient (a function that is maintained in the prokaryote and in the mitochondria and chloroplasts of current eukaryotes).
Fourthly, he achieved a scientific model of how the psyche of the cell with a metabolism can be established. From the experimental data on the regulation of the cell, he conceived how, at each instant, the activity of the proteins of its soma is substantiated in the perception of the objective contrast between the actual result obtained in the previous action and the one that is expected in the present action, and how the psyche of the cell governs the intensity of the activity of the proteins of its soma.