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Stanley Miller, the chemist whose landmark experiment published in 1953 showed how some of the molecules of life could have formed on a young Earth, left behind boxes of experimental samples that he never analyzed. The first-ever analysis of some of Miller’s old samples has revealed another way that important molecules could have formed on early Earth.
The study discovered a path from simple to complex compounds amid Earth’s prebiotic soup. More than 4 billion years ago, amino acids could have been attached together, forming peptides. These peptides ultimately may have led to the proteins and enzymes necessary for life’s biochemistry, as we know it.
In the new study, scientists analyzed samples from an experiment Miller performed in 1958. To the reaction flask, Miller added a chemical that at the time wasn’t widely thought to have been available on early Earth. The reaction had successfully formed peptides, the new study found.