Cell mechanism research provides a better platform for cancer prevention.

Ryan Stuart | Santa Cruz Sentinel | February 8, 2021

SANTA CRUZ – The National Institute of Health rewarded UC Santa Cruz researchers with a $1.25 million grant to study cellular genomics.

The research, which is led by UC Santa Cruz Professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology William Sullivan, could result in treatments that could prevent cancer in the future.

When cells divide, they have to replicate their chromosomes. If that isn’t done perfectly, the cell can turn cancerous, according to Sullivan. This happens when the chromosome doesn’t split properly, and a small piece breaks off. It can result in a cell with the wrong number of chromosomes, which can cause a multitude of medical problems.

“It turns out over the years there are mechanisms to ensure a cell gets the right number of chromosomes,” Sullivan said. “We’re finding this mechanism at the very last stage when the chromosomes are separating.”

The broken chromosome sends out a rope to the other fragment, similar to tossing a life preserver to someone that has fallen off a boat. The broken pieces of the chromosome then get pulled together to the new cell.

Once the pieces of the broken chromosome are pulled into the new cell, the body can work to repair it, according to Sullivan. However, during this process, the nucleus of the cell continues to form, and the chromosome gets locked out.

That doesn’t pose as a problem. The chromosome drills a hole into the nucleus and gets inside. The nucleus then repairs itself and everything in the cell is right again, Sullivan said.

Where the research currently stands, Sullivan is unsure if researchers can manually activate the chromosome recovery process. However, it paves the way for promising cancer research.

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