Making an Amoeba from Scratch

A friend of a friend claimed to have, while a biology undergrad at Oxford, participated in a lab in which they “made an amoeba from scratch.” When pressed, he said solely from inorganic chemicals. Given that he hasn’t yet received his Nobel prize, what was he likely really doing? Can single-celled organisms be created in a lab from proteins and amino acids? Or can they only put in genetic material to a ready-made nucleus and go from there?

just a WAG, but what he probably did was use chemicals to create some sort of gelatinous substance, with a membrane around it. Probably just a visual type of demonstration he too WAY too literally, IMNSHO.

I would tend to agree with Phnord Prephect. Even the most basic of cells is insanely complex, and it took evolution at least several hundreds of million years of trying to come up with them. Amoebae are several orders of magnitude more complex than the simplest cyanobacteria we know of today, so it’s unlikely that a 90-minute lab experiment could produce anything even remotely approaching them.

A team made polio virus a while back basically from scratch. That’s the limit of the technology so far. Bacteria are orders of magnitude more complex, and amoobae far more complex still.

I can make an amoeba from scratch. Take all of your raw materials, and form sugars from them. Feed those sugars to an existing amoeba. Wait for amoeba to divide. Presto, you got your original amoeba, plus another!

But even this method won’t work, if you’re starting from inorganic materials. Chemicals are classified as organic or inorganic based solely on whether they contain carbon. And you’d need to eventually get your carbon from somewhere.