UW News

Sarah Keller


August 12, 2019

First cells on ancient Earth may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes

Scientists have discovered that the building blocks of proteins can stabilize cell membranes. This finding may explain how the first cells emerged from the primordial soup billions of years ago: The protein building blocks could have stabilized cell membranes against salt and ions that were present in ancient oceans. In addition, membranes may have been a site for these precursor molecules to co-localize, a potential mechanism to explain what brought together the ingredients for life.


December 5, 2017

Living cell membranes can self-sort their components by ‘demixing’

A vacuole in a yeast cell.

Scientists at the University of Washington show for the first time that the complex distribution of molecules within a membrane of a living yeast cell arises through demixing.


July 29, 2013

Natural affinities – unrecognized until now – may have set stage for life to ignite

Strands in blue and red, twisted together

It might not have been just happenstance that caused components of RNA and the earliest “cell” membranes to be in the right place at the right time to spark life.