Protocells: Milestones and Recent Advances

Small. 2022 May;18(18):e2106624. doi: 10.1002/smll.202106624. Epub 2022 Mar 23.


The origin of life is still one of humankind's great mysteries. At the transition between nonliving and living matter, protocells, initially featureless aggregates of abiotic matter, gain the structure and functions necessary to fulfill the criteria of life. Research addressing protocells as a central element in this transition is diverse and increasingly interdisciplinary. The authors review current protocell concepts and research directions, address milestones, challenges and existing hypotheses in the context of conditions on the early Earth, and provide a concise overview of current protocell research methods.

Keywords: coacervate; early Earth; origin of life; prebiotics; protocells; vesicles.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Cells* / chemistry