Can life be created in the lab? In the Nature journal Communications Chemistry, SFI External Professor Juan Pérez-Mercader and coauthors Chenyu Lin and Sai Krishna Katla in his Harvard laboratory present a new way to design and build self-assembled chemical systems within the lab that mimic simple natural systems. Their polymer vesicles “boot-up” from a soup of inorganic carbon-based molecules and, in an oxygen-rich environment, they follow an evolutionary cycle of growth and implosion.  

“The chemistry of a synthetic, micrometer-scale, and out-of-equilibrium artificial system, which by design avoids any biochemistry and uses only ‘small’ molecules, has the potential to mimic some of life’s most fundamental properties,” explains Pérez-Mercader. “Life can probably be mimicked within the chemistry lab and, because of it, the universe may even be teaming with it.”

Read the paper, "Photochemically induced cyclic morphological dynamics via degradation of autonomously produced, self-assembled polymer vesicles," in Communications Chemistry (February 26, 2021)

Read the article in VICE/Motherboard (March 10, 2021)