Name: Chetanath Neupane
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Miller-Urey Experiment; Origin of Life

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The Miller and Urey experiment,  it was conducted in 1952 and published in 1953 by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago. It has been considered as a breakthrough  that made organic compounds out of inorganic ones by applying a form of energy. Their  idea was based on simulation of  hypothetical conditions on the early Earth as to test the biochemical origins of life.

Urey and Miller were testing the hypothesis of Alexander Oparin’s and J.B.S Haldane’s hypothesis, as they said that “conditions on the primitive earth favored chemical reactions that synthesized organic compounds from inorganic precursors.” This is consider to be classical experiment on the origin of life.

The reason that this experiment is consider a significant since after Miller’s death in 2007, scientists examined sealed vials preserved from the original experiments. They were able to show that there were well over 20 different amino acids produced in Miller’s original experiments. That is considerably more than those Miller originally reported, and more than the 20 that naturally occur in life.

Possibly one of the most important experiments was one conducted in 1952, when the scientists Urey and Miller, who were interested in the origin of life, and they carried out an experiment, to simulate an early Earth atmosphere. And you can see this rather ingenious apparatus where they’ve got some water boiling away inside a flask, being circulated into another container that’s got an electrical discharge apparatus. And this electrical discharge is discharging across an ancient simulated Earth atmosphere.
And they circulated this water round and round. And after a period of time, they found that the gases in this container, once they had been electrically sparked, transform themselves into amino acids, that we saw, are the building blocks of life. So, in this simple experiment, using only water and the constituents of early Earth atmosphere, these scientists managed to create the building blocks of life. This was a truly remarkable experiment, a breakthrough in astrobiology that allowed scientists to go from speculation about the origin of life, to thinking about how those early building blocks might well have formed. Nowadays we think that the atmosphere of early Earth is actually slightly different from the atmosphere that was used by Urey and Miller in the early experiments. But nevertheless this remains a remarkable and landmark experiment in the early history of Astrobiology, at least in the twentieth century. And taking our understanding of the origin of life to a new, empirical level.

 

References

[1] Hill H.G. & Nuth J.A. (2003). “The catalytic potential of cosmic dust: implications for prebiotic chemistry in the solar nebula and other protoplanetary systems”. Astrobiology 3 (2): 291–304. doi:10.1089/153110703769016389. PMID 14577878.

[2] Balm S.P; Hare J.P. & Kroto H.W. (1991). “The analysis of comet mass spectrometric data”. Space Science Reviews 56: 185–9. doi:10.1007/BF00178408.

[3] Miller, Stanley L. (1953). “Production of amino acids under possible primitive Earth conditions” (PDF). Science 117 (3046): 528. doi:10.1126/science.117.3046.528. PMID 13056598.

[4] Miller, Stanley L.; Harold C. Urey (1959). “Organic ccompound synthesis on the primitive Earth”. Science 130 (3370): 245. doi:10.1126/science.130.3370.245. PMID 13668555. Miller states that he made “A more complete analysis of the products” in the 1953 experiment, listing additional results.

[5] A. Lazcano, J.L. Bada (2004). “The 1953 Stanley L. Miller experiment: fifty years of prebiotic organic chemistry”. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 33 (3): 235–242. doi:10.1023/A:1024807125069. PMID 14515862.

[6] Bada, Jeffrey L. (2000). “Stanley Miller’s 70th Birthday”. Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere (Netherlands: Kluwer) 30: 107–12.

[7] BBC: The spark of life. TV documentary, BBC 4, 26 August 2009.

[8] “Right-handed amino acids were left behind”. New Scientist (2554). Reed Business Information Ltd. 2006-06-02. p. 18. Retrieved 2008-07-09.

[9] Brooks D.J. et al (2002). “Evolution of amino acid frequencies in proteins over deep time: inferred order of introduction of amino acids into the genetic code”. Molecular Biology and Evolution 19 (10): 1645–55. PMID 12270892

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