The research was led by Dr Gary Gorbsky at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Results of the research have been published in the science journal Nature today, which describes a new technique that controls a protein which signals cell multiplication.
The researchers were able to interrupt and reverse cell division by the manipulation of a key protein. They were also successful in sending duplicate chromosomes back to the centre of the original cell that gave rise to them. This was a feat previously considered to be impossible.
According to Dr Gorbsky this achievement indicates that many such events in the cell cycle which have long been considered irreversible may, in fact, be reversible.
The studies have also shown the presence of multiple regulators in the cell division cycle which prevent reversal of cell cycle after an extended period of time. The findings may prove important in controlling the development and spread of certain cancers as well as certain birth defects.
A spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK said the work was still at the earliest stage and had yet to be developed into a therapy that could be used for live tests. "To put this in context, this discovery is many years away from producing anything of use to cancer patients," she said.
This advance in halting cell division has given credability to scientists' claims of a treatment which could overcome cancer being only a decade away.