Scientists from the University of Warwick, UK, have accidentally discovered a cell structure which may prove useful in understanding how cancer develops and, ultimately, how to prevent it from spreading in the future.
Nicknamed “the mesh”, the discovery significantly changes how scientists understand the internal scaffolding of cells.
“As a cell biologist you dream of finding a new structure in cells but it’s so unlikely. Scientists have been looking at cells since the 17th Century and so to find something that no-one has seen before is amazing,” said team leader, Dr. Stephen Royle.
A student of Royle was doing research on structures called mitotic spindles, when the mesh was accidentally found.
Cells use Mitotic spindles to ensure that each new cell has a full genome after division.
“We had been looking in 2D and this gave the impression that ‘bridges’ linked microtubules together. This had been known since the 1970s. All of a sudden, tilting the fiber in 3D showed us that the bridges were not single struts at all but a web-like structure linking all the microtubules together,” noted Royle.
During division, a cell must accurately share chromosomes or the two resulting cells may be created with the incorrect number of chromosomes, which is referred to as aneuploidy and has been linked to various type of tumors.
“Problems in cell division are common in cancer; cells frequently end up with the wrong number of chromosomes. This early research provides … a crucial insight into why this process becomes faulty in cancer and whether drugs could be developed to stop it from happening,” said Dr. Emma Smith with the Cancer Research UK.