Chemists studying how life started often focus on biopolymers like peptides and nucleic acids, but modern biopolymers don’t form easily without help from living organisms. A possible solution to this paradox is that life started using different components, and many non-biological chemicals were likely abundant in the environment. A new survey of a diverse set of such compounds under primitive environmental conditions found many of these easily formed polymers and some spontaneously formed cell-like structures.
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