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New approach developed for creating the building blocks of life

A new safer and simplified method for creating amino acids and other compounds in the laboratory from simple small molecules that were present at the time simple life forms first developed on Earth has been developed by Eric Parker and his group from the Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers from NASA, and scientists from the Tokyo Institute of Technology according to a report in the Jan. 21, 2014, edition of the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Miller-Urey experiments study the abiotic synthesis of organic compounds by creating an environment similar to that of the early earth. An electric discharge is applied to a mixture of gases representing the early earth's atmosphere and lightening.
JoVE—The Journal of Visualized Experiments

The researchers have developed technology similar to the experiments originally conducted by Dr. Stanley Miller and Dr. Harold Urey in 1953. Miller and Urey were successful in creating amino acids from simple organic and inorganic molecules.

The new design avoids the inherent dangers of the Miller-Urey device and is presented in a step by step video process that can be replicated by researchers across the world. The inherent danger of the original device was the necessity of producing an electric spark that simulated a bolt of lightning in a reaction vessel that contained potentially flammable and explosive mixtures.

The researchers anticipate reproducing similar result to those obtained by Miller and Urey as well as producing a more varied set of compounds that are representative of the most probable process that formed the first life on Earth.