Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Slicing Chromosomes Leads to New Insights Into Cell Division

02.06.2009
By using ultrafast laser pulses to slice off pieces of chromosomes and observe how the chromosomes behave, biomedical engineers at the University of Michigan have gained pivotal insights into mitosis, the process of cell division.

Their findings could help scientists better understand genetic diseases, aging and cancer.

Cells in plants, fungi, and animals—including those in the human body—divide through mitosis, during which the DNA-containing chromosomes separate between the resulting daughter cells. Forces in a structure called the mitotic spindle guide the replicated chromosomes to opposing sides as one cell eventually becomes two.

"Each cell needs the right number of chromosomes. It’s central to life in general and very important in terms of disease," said Alan Hunt, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and an author of a paper describing these findings published in Current Biology.

"One of the really important fundamental questions in biology is how do chromosomes get properly segregated when cells divide. What are the forces that move chromosomes around during this process? Where do they come from and what guides the movements?"

Hunt’s results validate the theory that "polar ejection forces" are at play. Scientists had hypothesized that the direction and magnitude of these forces might provide physical cues guiding chromosome movements. In this capacity, polar ejection forces would play a central role separating chromosomes in dividing cells, but no one had established a direct link until now.

Polar ejection forces are thought to arise out of the interaction between protein motors on the arms of chromosomes that push against cells’ microtubules. Microtubules are long, thin tubes that form a central component of the cytoskeleton and the mitotic spindle. They serve as intracellular structural supports and as railways along which molecular motors move cargoes such as chromosomes.

Hunt’s group hypothesized that polar ejection forces should be proportional to the chromosome’s size, and therefore could be predictably changed by altering the size of the chromosomes. Using newts as a model organism, they cut off pieces of the chromosomes’ arms.

"We asked what the relationship is between the size of the fragment we removed and the direction the chromosome moved," Hunt said. "Not only did we observe a relationship, we established that polar ejection forces were in fact a direct cue that guided chromosomal movements in mitosis."

To achieve this, Hunt performed "nanoscale surgery," as he calls it, taking advantage of the unprecedented precision of femtosecond pulses of laser light. A femtosecond is one billionth of one millionth of a second. The chromosomes he altered were only micrometers long, and the slices across the chromosomes were only nanometers thick. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, about a million times thinner than a human hair.

Understanding how chromosome guidance occurs allows scientists to determine how failures lead to genetic diseases, aging and cancer. When cells don’t properly divide, they usually die. But survival can cause cancer or aging-related disorders. Likewise, genetic diseases such as Down’s syndrome result from improper chromosome segregation.

Mitosis, Hunt says, is one of the most important targets of chemotherapy.

"By knowing how chromosomes move, we can better understand how these drugs interfere with those movements and we can design experiments to screen for new drugs," Hunt said. "It will also allow us to have a better handle on what makes these drugs work. There are a lot of drugs that interfere with mitosis, but only a few are good for cancer therapy."

The paper is called, "The Distribution of Polar Ejection Forces Determines the Amplitude of Chromosome Directional Instability." It is published in the May 26 print edition of Current Biology. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Cellular Biotechnology Training Grant at the University of Michigan. Hunt is also an assistant research scientist in the U-M Institute of Gerontology, and director of the Biomedical Lab at the Center for Ultrafast Optical Sciences.

Michigan Engineering:
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At more than $130 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference.

Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://www.engin.umich.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>