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Cell Division Reversed in Possible Path to Cancer Treatment

DNA Tests of Illegally Traded Ivory Could Save

One key to advanced life is cell division. Cells divide millions of times every day to sustain the life and growth of a single human.

But out-of-control cell division can fuel cancer.

Now scientists have for the first time reversed the process of cell division, a breakthrough that could eventually lead to treatments for cancer and other disorders.

They gained control over a protein responsible for division, then halted and reversed the process. Duplicate chromosomes were sent back to the center of the original cell, an event once thought impossible.

"Our studies indicate that the factors pointing cells toward division can be turned and even reversed," said lead researcher Gary Gorbsky of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. "If we wait too long, however, it doesn't work, so we know that there are multiple regulators in the cell division cycle. Now we will begin to study the triggers that set these events in motion."

The research is detailed in the April 13 issue of the journal Nature.

"No one has gotten the cell cycle to go backwards before now," Gorbsky said. "This shows that certain events in the cell cycle that have long been assumed irreversible may, in fact, be reversible."

"Dr. Gorbsky's results provide elegant proof that the cell cycle must be precisely controlled," said Rodger McEver, vice president of research at the facility. "Now he and his lab can work toward developing innovative methods to probe and better understand the complex process of cell division.

Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.