US researchers have found a way to reverse the process of cell division. This process was initially thought to be unstoppable. This finding could be an important milestone in the fight against cancer, in which cells divide uncontrollably.
Researchers from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have published their findings in the journal Nature. Cell division occurs about a million times in the human body each day. However, there has to be a perfect co-ordination between the components of the cell, more specifically the DNA and their host, the chromosomes. In cancer cells, there is a defective mechanism in these two components. In the current study researchers were able to control a protein called cyclin, which appears to play a key role in this process before disappearing. The researchers inactivated this protein and found that they could reverse the cell division. "No-one has got the cell cycle to go backwards before now. This shows that certain events in the cell cycle that have long been assumed irreversible may, in fact, be reversible," said Dr Gary Gorbsky, who led the research. Professor Jonathon Pines, an expert in cancer cell division at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge cautioned that this would not automatically mean new cancer treatments. "It is useful for us to understand how the cell goes through the process of segregating the chromosomes," he said.