The discovery of the 'master controller' of cell division could improve both understanding and treatment of cancer.
Scientists believe they may have discovered the master controller behind cell division, leading some to be hopeful that this could pave the way for a better understanding - and, consequently, treatment - of cancer.
This is because it is cell division which is ultimately behind the violent spread of the disease, as metastasis sees further tumours crop up elsewhere in the body.
Two researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth - Lilian Kabeche and Duane Compton - discovered that a protein called cyclin A plays an important role in cell division, which was not known before. That is, it is the 'master controller' of the biological process, overseeing chromosome segregation as DNA splits, replicates and comes back together to form the basis of new cells.
More specifically, when cell division takes place, the chromosomes within a cell separate in a very precise way, at which point complementary chromosomes attach to the separated ones via spindle microtubules through structures known as kinetochores.
The scientists looked at how, in the early stages of cell division, microtubule attachments at kinetochores are very unstable. However, cyclin A ensures that any errors that may be made during this process are corrected, safeguarding functioning and healthy cell division.
The authors of the study, to be published in the journal Nature, explained: "Cyclin A acts like a timekeeper or referee to make sure no [chromosomes] make bad connections prematurely."
In cells where levels of cyclin A are reduced, faulty microtubule attachments may not be corrected, which can lead to incidences of faulty chromosome segregation.
"Understanding how kinetochore-microtubule attachments are regulated throughout cell division is important - not only for furthering our understanding of cell division, but also for allowing us to correct these problems in cancer cells," added Ms Kabeche.
Afterall, cells are indeed the building blocks of the human body and so improved understanding of them will ultimately lead to a better knowledge of the body and how best to keep it fighting fit.
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