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Spin Me Round

New microscopy technique reveals the cell nucleus spins before cell division - but why?

05 February 2020

Spin Me Round

Take a closer look at something and you’re bound to spot details that you hadn’t noticed before. The same is true for scientists using ever more powerful microscopy techniques to peer inside cells like this fat precursor cell from a mouse. Using a new three-dimensional technique known as holo-tomographic microscopy, researchers are spying on structures inside living cells in unprecedented detail. Importantly, the method doesn’t need any special chemical dyes and works with very low levels of light so as not to damage delicate cells or affect their behaviour – and that behaviour turns out to include some pretty weird things. One of the strangest is that the cell’s nucleus (the structure that houses all the DNA) seems to spin around before it divides, turning up to two full rotations over a couple of hours. Why? Nobody knows, so researchers will have to watch even more closely to find the reason.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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