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Published on 18 February 2010

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Cell mechanism staves off disease


Researchers have discovered a clever mechanism in the human body that protects it against cancer and genetic disorders.

In a study of cell reproduction, scientists at the University of Dundee found the mechanism ensures healthy chromosomes are passed on effectively to prevent disease.

The 46 chromosomes that make up human cells all carry important genetic information and must be exactly copied and separated as we grow.

Disturbances in the process can cause genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome.

Researchers have described a “blindfold handshake” between microtubes – or threads – which capture chromosomes and pull them apart into each new cell.

Professor Tomo Tanaka, from the College of Life Sciences, said scientists previously thought the thread networks were organised by the cell ends and had little idea how the process was carried out so efficiently.

The study discovered that the networks are generated not only from the cell ends but also from sites on the chromosomes themselves, making the copying of material more effective.

The research team described the process as a “crucial step” in assuring cells’ chromosome inheritance during division, helping prevent cell death and disease.

The study is published in the scientific journal Developmental Cell.

Copyright Press Association 2010

Developmental Cell

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