Bioengineers discover single cancer cell can produce up to five daughter cells

Jul 05, 2012

Conventional biology expects the process of mammalian cell division, mitosis, to occur by the equal partition of a mother cell into two daughter cells. Bioengineers at UCLA Engineering have developed a platform that mechanically confines cells, simulating the in vivo three-dimensional environments in which they divide. Upon confinement they have discovered that cancer cells can divide a large percentage of the time into three or more daughter cells instead.

It's well known in conventional biology that during the process of division, or mitosis, a divides equally into two . But when it comes to cancer, say UCLA researchers, mother cells may be far more prolific.

Bioengineers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and developed a platform to mechanically confine cells, simulating the in vivo three-dimensional environments in which they divide, and found that, upon confinement, often split into three or more daughter cells.

"We hope that this platform will allow us to better understand how the 3-D mechanical environment may play a role in the progression of a into a that kills," said Dino Di Carlo, an associate professor of bioengineering at UCLA and principal investigator on the research.

The of mitosis is tightly regulated by specific biochemical checkpoints to ensure that each daughter cell receives an equal set of sub-cellular materials, such as chromosomes or , to create new cells properly.

However, when these checkpoints are miscued, the mistakes can have detrimental consequences. One key component is chromosomal count: When a new cell acquires extra chromosomes or loses chromosomes — known as aneuploidy — the regulation of important biological processes can be disrupted, a key characteristic of many invasive cancers. A cell that divides into more than two daughter cells undergoes a complex choreography of chromosomal motion that can result in aneuploidy.

By investigating the contributing factors that lead to mismanagement during the process of chromosome segregation, scientists may better understand the progression of cancer, said the researchers, whose findings were recently published online in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.

For the study, the UCLA team created a microfluidic platform to mechanically confine cancer cells to study the effects of 3-D microenvironments on mitosis events. The platform allowed for high-resolution, single-cell microscopic observations as the cells grew and divided. This platform, the researchers said, enabled them to better mimic the in vivo conditions of a tumor's space-constrained growth in 3-D environments — in contrast to traditionally used culture flasks.

Surprisingly, the team observed that such confinement resulted in the abnormal division of a single cancer cell into three or four daughter cells at a much higher rate than typical. And a few times, they observed a single cell splitting into five daughter cells during a single division event, likely leading to aneuploid daughter cells.

"Even though cancer can arise from a set of precise mutations, the majority of malignant tumors possess aneuploid cells, and the reason for this is still an open question," said Di Carlo, who is also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. "Our new microfluidic platform offers a more reliable way for researchers to study how the unique tumor environment may contribute to aneuploidy."

Explore further: Researchers annotate genome of the smallest known fungal plant pathogen

Related Stories

New key mechanism in cell division discovered

May 18, 2012

Researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) have identified the mechanism by which protein Zds1 regulates a key function in mitosis, the process that occurs immediately before cell division. The ...

Scientists deconstruct cell division

Feb 08, 2009

The last step of the cell cycle is the brief but spectacularly dynamic and complicated mitosis phase, which leads to the duplication of one mother cell into two daughter cells. In mitosis, the chromosomes ...

Researchers shed light on how tumor cells form

Jun 21, 2006

MIT cancer researchers have discovered a process that may explain how some tumor cells form, a discovery that could one day lead to new therapies that prevent defective cells from growing and spreading.

Recommended for you

New alfalfa variety resists ravenous local pest

9 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Cornell plant breeders have released a new alfalfa variety with some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle, which has ravaged alfalfa fields in nine northern New York counties and across ...

New patenting guidelines are needed for biotechnology

Apr 22, 2014

Biotechnology scientists must be aware of the broad patent landscape and push for new patent and licensing guidelines, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Rainbow trout genome sequenced

Apr 22, 2014

Using fish bred at Washington State University, an international team of researchers has mapped the genetic profile of the rainbow trout, a versatile salmonid whose relatively recent genetic history opens ...

User comments : 0

More news stories