Forget Black Friday, it’s Breakthrough Thursday!

November 29, 2019 by Tali Aronsky
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This year, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers Professor Liran Carmel and Dr. David Gokhman received significant international attention when they gave the world its first glimpse of Denisovan, the mysterious human species that lived 100,000 years ago but went extinct.

Hebrew U’s Prof. Liran Carmel and Maayan Harel’s rendering of a young female Denisovan.    Credit: Hebrew University

Using DNA methylation maps, they reconstructed the Denisovan’s anatomy from the barest of Denisovan remains, namely the tip of a pinky bone and three teeth found in a cave in Siberia ten years ago.

Now, Carmel’s research is a finalist–the only Israeli finalist–for Science Magazine’s 2019 Breakthrough of the Year.  This award decides the most significant scientific development this year and the winner will be announced next month (December).

As for the accuracy of their Denisovan profile, Carmel shared, “One of the most exciting moments happened a few weeks after we sent our Cell paper to peer-review.  Scientists discovered a Denisovan jawbone!  We quickly compared this bone to our predictions and found that it matched perfectly. Without even planning on it, we received independent confirmation of our ability to reconstruct whole anatomical profiles using DNA extracted from a single fingertip.”

There is still a long way to go to uncovering our ancient human cousin’s lifestyle and habitats but Carmel and Gokhman’s findings bring us one step closer…and bring Israel one step closer to winning its first-ever Science Breakthrough Award.

The vote ends 7am (Israel Time) on Tuesday, December 3. For more information and to vote, click and choose Carmel’s thumbnail, below.


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