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New book provides summary of research into the origins of life on Earth


COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y.(June 29, 2010) Life arose on Earth more than three billion years ago. How the first self-replicating systems emerged from prebiotic chemistry and evolved into primitive cell-like entities is an area of intense research, spanning molecular and cellular biology, organic chemistry, cosmology, geology, and atmospheric science.

A comprehensive account of this research is provided in The Origins of Life, a new book from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.  It is edited by David Deamer and Jack Szostak, one of the winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. 

“[T]he origin of life remains an open question, yet there is growing optimism in the scientific community that we are getting closer to an answer,” write Deamer and Szostak in the preface.  Each of the book’s 20 chapters was written by one or more experts in a particular subfield.

In The Origins of Life, the contributors describe the environment of the early Earth and the mechanisms by which the organic molecules present may have self-assembled to form replicating material such as RNA and other polymers.  They examine the energetic requirements for this process and focus in particular on the essential role of semi-permeable compartments in containment of primitive genetic systems.

Also covered in the book are synthetic approaches for fabricating cellular systems, the potentially extraterrestrial origin of life’s building blocks, and the possibility that life once existed on Mars. Comprising five sections—Setting The Stage, Components of First Life, Primitive Systems, First Polymers, and Transition to a Microbial World—it is a vital reference for all scientists interested in the origin of life on Earth and the likelihood that it has arisen on other planets.

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About the book:
The Origins of Life (ISBN 978-193611304-0; © 2010 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press) was edited by David Deamer (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Jack W. Szostak (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital). It is hardcover and is 318 pp. in length (7” × 10”; illus., index). For more information, see http://www.cshlpress.com/link/originslife.htm.

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. Since 1933, it has furthered the advance and spread of scientific knowledge in all areas of genetics and molecular biology, including cancer biology, plant science, bioinformatics, and neurobiology. It is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit www.cshlpress.com.

Ingrid Benirschke, Book Marketing Manager
benirsch@cshl.edu; 619-275-6021

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