-CHRONICLE in the laboratories of the University of Wisconsin was made a discovery which could shake the foundations of biology. Mark Burkard and his team observed a type of cell division entirely unpredictable, according to theories in vogue for a century.
The discoverers are a team of cancer experts looking for new methods to combat a type of cancer that causes the abnormal duplication of chromosomes in the cells, a condition known as polyploidy. This is what happens in about 14 percent of all breast cancers and in 35 percent of pancreatic ones.
The discovery was made in an attempt to obtain experimentally human cells with supernumerary chromosome set. The intent was to produce a sort of “cancer”, on which to conduct further experiments to search for new therapies.
The researchers induced some retinal cells to embark on the path of mitotic Division (the most common type of cell division), inhibiting the citocinesi process, which normally ends with the separation of the two daughter cells. The resulting cells contained two nuclei each, therefore with a double set of chromosomes. What Burkard and colleagues expected was to have abnormal cells, obtained with much of normal biological functions compromised and the inability to continue toward a normal cell proliferation: a kind of artificial tumor. It is the theory of Theodor Boveri, a dogma of biology ever questioned by a century.
Unexpectedly, however, some cells acted contrary to expectations, leaving stunned scientists. A third of them began to divide into two daughter cells, without resorting to proteins normally required to divide the cell membrane in citocinesi. “It took some time to convince us of what we were watching, because it is not mentioned in any book,” said Burkard – and ultimately we concluded that we were observing a new kind of cell division “. The hypothesis is that cells normally use this strategy as a natural mechanism for “back-up” that prevents the formation of tumors in case of malfunction the mitotic spindle. The researchers also gave a name to their discovery, baptizing it “clerocinesi”. It is hoped the discovery will not serve only to rewrite the books of biology, but also to help us understand how to prevent the cancers more effectively in the future.
Image credit: University of Wisconsin
Image courtesy of Ed Yourdon