From Scientific American:
In an attempt to duplicate an early cell, scientists put fatty acids (that were likely membrane candidates) and a strip of DNA into a test tube of water. While in there, the fatty acids formed into a ring, or membrane, around the genetic segment. The researchers then added nucleotides—units of genetic material—to the test tube to determine whether they would penetrate the membrane and copy the DNA inside it. Their findings: the nucleotides did enter the cell, latch onto and replicate the DNA over 24 hours.
What scientists now must figure out, Szostak says, is how the original and copycat DNA strands separated and this early cell divided or reproduced.
“We’re trying to solve a whole series of problems, step by step,” he says, “and build up to replicating an evolving system.”