Prions are worth an examination when thinking about alive/not alive distinctions. Prions are a form of protein. The prion enters a cell, bonds to a "normal" variant of itself found in almost every living cell and proceeds to refold the protein from its regular helical shape into a different but stable sheet shape. It seems to have a preference for neural tissue. It doesn't add or subtract anything from the original protein but functions, according to the NIH high school teacher's guide, like a transformer toy.
The result is what's typically called some form of "spongiform encephalopathy." The nervous tissue develops holes throughout. Mad Cow Disease, scrapies,
Creutzfeld-Jacobson's disease and others are the result.
These proteins are transmissible, they replicate, if they were not able to adapt, then they would not have been able to have forms able to infect so many different species, including fungi, apparently, at this point.
What seems particularly interesting is that the protein can be synthesized in the laboratory, from scratch, first in its non-infectious and then in its infectious forms.
If true, it's possible that this information may have something to say to those who hold a literal belief in the biblical story of creation. I do not; and still I found the news a bit of a shock, that anybody might have knocked together anything even approaching life in a laboratory seemed to me altogether fantastical.
Not to mention the possibility of a new Kingdom of life:
Plants, Animals, Viruses, Prions. Of course, I may be wildly off base.
Yours in a daze, BobK.