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New book provides summary of research into the origins of life on Earth

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. (June 29, 2010) -- Life arose on Earth more than three billion years ago. How the first self-replicating systems emerged from prebiotic chemistry and evolved into primitive cell-like entities is an area of intense research, spanning molecular and cellular biology, organic chemistry, cosmology, geology, and atmospheric science.

A comprehensive account of this research is provided in The Origins of Life, a new book from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. It is edited by David Deamer and Jack Szostak, one of the winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

"[T]he origin of life remains an open question, yet there is growing optimism in the scientific community that we are getting closer to an answer," write Deamer and Szostak in the preface. Each of the book's 20 chapters was written by one or more experts in a particular subfield.

In The Origins of Life, the contributors describe the environment of the early Earth and the mechanisms by which the organic molecules present may have self-assembled to form replicating material such as RNA and other polymers. They examine the energetic requirements for this process and focus in particular on the essential role of semi-permeable compartments in containment of primitive genetic systems.

Also covered in the book are synthetic approaches for fabricating cellular systems, the potentially extraterrestrial origin of life's building blocks, and the possibility that life once existed on Mars. Comprising five sectionsSetting The Stage, Components of First Life, Primitive Systems, First Polymers, and Transition to a Microbial Worldit is a vital reference for all scientists interested in the origin of life on Earth and the likelihood that it has arisen on other planets.


Contact: Ingrid Benirschke
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Page: 1

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