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Cooking up life’s ingredients, all in one pot

Key cellular components could be created by same set of chemical reactions, study suggests

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12:09pm, March 16, 2015

STARTING POINT Nearly 4 billion years ago, the chemical precursors to life may have all formed together in trickles of water and puddles on Earth's cracked and pummeled surface.

Scientists have long mulled over whether the protein or its genetic code came first. Or maybe it was the cell that houses them both. Now chemists may have the answer: The components for life all arrived together.

A series of primordial chemical reactions can generate the building blocks of the three necessary components for a living cell — genetic material, proteins and cellular compartments, researchers report online March 16 in Nature Chemistry. It’s the first experimental evidence that these chemical precursors to life could have arisen at the same place and time from the same ingredients.

That place and time could have been a network of streams and pools on Earth’s surface nearly 4 billion years ago, about the time when life started, the study’s authors suggest.

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