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From a Side Project to the Nobel

Massachusetts General Hospital's Jack Szostak tells The New York Times that his work on telomeres, which led him to win the 2009 Nobel Prize, started out as a "side project." Szostak was interested in recombination, and he became interested in telomeres because they do not recombine. And he then worked with Elizabeth Blackburn, who shared the Nobel with him. "We figured out that there was an enzyme, telomerase, that adds DNA to the ends of chromosomes to balance out the DNA that is naturally lost as cells grow," he says. "Afterward, as people in the field began to see how important it was, telomere research just took off." Now, Szostak's lab has a different research focus: he and his colleagues are trying to determine how life came about on Earth.