Jack Szostak: The Origin of Life on Earth

I. The Origin of Cellular Life on Earth
II. Protocell Membranes
III. Non-Enzymatic Copying of Nucleic Acid Templates

Part I: The Origin of Cellular Life on Earth

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Lecture Overview
Szostak begins his lecture with examples of the extreme environments in which life exists on Earth. He postulates that given the large number of Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars, and the ability of microbial life to exist in a wide range of environments, it is probable that an environment that could support life exists somewhere in our galaxy. However, whether or not life does exist elsewhere, depends on the answer to the question of how difficult it is for life to arise from the chemistry of the early planets. Szostak proceeds to demonstrate that by starting with simple molecules and conditions found on the early earth, it may in fact be possible to generate a primitive, self-replicating protocell.  More >>

Speaker Bio
Early in his research career, Dr. Szostak made important contributions to the field of genetics. These included construction of the first yeast artificial chromosome and furthering our understanding of the function of telomeres, work for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009. By the 1990s, however, Szostak had redirected his research to understanding how life on earth may have first emerged. He began his studies in this area by attempting to construct an RNA molecule that could self-replicate. His lab now focuses on developing a simple artificial cell that can grow and evolve in response to a changing environment.  More >>

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  1. Matt Draluk says

    I stumbled about this studying for a second semester biology course, it’s absolutely fascinating. I’m loving this biology stuff. I should have been studying other stuff but I watched the whole thing when there is just one question about it.

  2. Þórhallur Halldórsson says


    At the end of your video you talk about early cell replication and that you are looking for a good model. In Iceland you can find a lot of hot springs that are pure mud. It is made of boiling mud and there is not much movement of the materials in the hot spring. You therefore have a hot center and a colder outer circle. When it rains the mud spring increases its volume and heats up the outer rim of the spring and the cold mud is heated up again and drawn back in to circulation.



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