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Imaging the mechanics and ultrastructure of chromosome organisation during cell division

24 September 2022

Bend and Snap

Breaking up is hard to do – especially in a dividing cell. During mitosis, a cell must separate its pairs of chromosomes – regions of genetic information – by pulling each half towards opposite ‘poles’ before it cleaves in two. This is a carefully timed process, helped by thousands of mechanical parts including these microtubules. In this computer reconstruction, they connect to unseen chromosomes in the centre, then, like fishing lines, help to yank the chromosomes toward poles on the left and right. Researchers studying the bendiness or tortuosity of the tubules, find those at the centre are straighter (highlighted in red) and curvier (yellow) around the edge. Individual tubules also curve more towards the pole ends, and straighten as they reach the kinetochores (central junctions with the chromosomes). In the future, these techniques may spot weaknesses which could be exploited to halt cell division in certain cancers.

Written by John Ankers

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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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