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Press Release 08-094

A New Way to Think About Earth's First Cells

Study provides insight into how Earth's earliest cells may have interacted with their environment

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A three-dimensional view of a model protocell with DNA strands.

Above is a three-dimensional view of a model protocell approximately 100 nanometers in diameter. The protocell's fatty acid membrane allows nutrients and DNA building blocks to enter the cell and participate in non-enzymatic copying of the cell's DNA. The newly formed strands of DNA remain in the protocell.

Credit: Janet Iwasa, Szostak Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital


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Fatty acids may have formed near hydrothermal vents. This animation shows a theoretical scenario in which fatty acids are formed on the surface of minerals deep underground and then brought to the surface by the eruption of a geyser.

Credit: Janet Iwasa, Szostak Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital

 

The process by which fatty acid micelles may form a vesicle is shown in this animation.

Credit: Janet Iwasa, Szostak Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital