Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Perfect Imbalance

How cell division is regulated to prevent tumour formation

05 June 2022

Perfect Imbalance

The symmetry of a butterfly’s wings has an undeniable beauty, but under the surface life relies on processes with a more nuanced balance. When stem cells, precursor cells essential for maintenance and repair, are needed they go through asymmetric division to multiply and develop. This could risk genetic errors, so the process is rigorously regulated. Stem cells are polarised along a particular axis during this, and the orientation of the molecular machinery prevents runaway cell division and tumour formation. To understand what links polarisation to division, researchers examined asymmetrically dividing stem cells in the fruit fly (blue in the larva brain pictured). They found that a protein called Polo kinase regulates the duration of cell division, and the activation of this was in turn regulated by elements called Aurora A and B. This activation is key to maintaining the polarisation, allowing tissue maintenance while preventing the formation of harmful tumours.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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