Proteins that keep chromosomes on track during cell division offer
clues to how cancer develops
To many, a cell is just
a cell - a microscopic thing our bodies have millions of. But to
Kenneth Kaplan, a cell is something to study. Something to model.
Something to marvel. It is, after all, the structural building block
of all living organisms
Kaplan gives you fair warning about his interest in all things cellular.
He could talk about cells for hours
"It's fascinating. A cell does a lot of cool stuff," said
Kaplan, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology.
"Things move around in it. I want to know how it works, what
is the basis for it and what pieces go into making a cell function."
Tumors develop from multiple things going wrong over time. Kaplan's
work focuses on what goes wrong with chromosomes during mitosis.
Chromosomes package genetic information. A normal human cell contains
23 pairs, or 46 chromosomes. Through the process of mitosis a mother
cell gives birth to two identical daughter cells, replicating the
number of chromosomes in each daughter cell.
"It's critical. If they don't do that equally, then one cell
is going to be in trouble," Kaplan said. "Potentially
both will be in trouble because they will either have too much or
too little genetic information. It's such a fundamental process.
All cells have to segregate genetic information between mother and
daughters. This rarely fails in healthy people, but it fails a lot
in people with cancer."
Specifically, Kaplan is researching the role of kinetochores, a
series of proteins assembled on the chromosomes that bind to DNA
and shuffle the chromosomes around on microtubules, fiber-like tracks
in the cell. Microtubules are the railroad tracks and the kinetochores
are the motors that move the chromosomes around on those tracks
during mitosis, Kaplan explained.
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Molecular and cell
biologist Ken Kaplan wants to understand how disruptions in kinetochore
formation and function lead to the development of tumors.