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Life’s cold start

Frigid cocoons may have incubated earliest replicating molecules

1:37pm, September 21, 2010

The hot spot for life on early Earth may have been a very cold place. Tiny pockets and channels that form inside ice can contain and protect replicating molecules, researchers report September 21 in Nature Communications.

The paper suggests that life could have sprung from icy slush covering a freshwater lake, rather than a broiling deep-sea hydrothermal vent or the “warm little pond” proposed by Charles Darwin. And perhaps the frigid, icy surfaces of other planets are not as barren as they appear, proposes the research team from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Scientists studying the origin of life have long been vexed by the problem of protecting and containing life’s starter molecules before the advent of the tidy compartments known as cells. In present-day organisms, cells concentrate molecules, keeping ingredients and machinery within each others’ reach. Cells also protect the molecules t

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