The Allen Institute for Cell Science has launched a new tool called Integrated Mitotic Stem Cell to visualize how cell division, or mitosis, occurs.

The model used images of 15 different cellular components to create a three-dimensional look at what a typical cell would look like in different stages of cell division. It can help professional scientists and curious amateurs better understand the process of cell division and what happens in situations when cell division is affected.

"This is the first time anyone has seen all the major parts of the cell together during mitosis," stated Rick Horowitz, the executive director of the Allen Institute for Cell Science. "Visualization of the data is critical. Once you see this process as a complete picture, you can start to uncover new, unexpected relationships and ask and answer completely new questions about cell division."

The Inner Workings Of Cell Division

Cell division is an integral part of life. It is how humans grow from one single fertilized egg to a being with tens of trillions of cells.

To divide, each cell must duplicate 23 pairs of chromosome and segregate them equally into two daughter cells. The process involves multiple players all working together to make sure that everything runs according to plan. Tumors form when the cell fails to divide correctly, leaving one daughter with too many chromosomes and the other one with too few.

"Mitosis is pivotal for cancer and cancer cells. To date, research on mitosis and cancer has focused mainly on chromosomes, but very few things in a cell work in isolation," added Tom Misteli, director of the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research. "This new tool brings it all together, allowing researchers to connect the dots between different parts of the cell."

Developing The Integrated Mitotic Stem Cell

Users can use to tool to rotate a three-dimensional view of any or all 15 structures that represent stages of cell division. Graham Johnson, director of the Animated Cell team at the Allen Institute of Cell Science, told Forbes that they used a combination of lighting techniques developed in-house for each cell component in the structure.

They also used a coloring scheme in which every organelle with similar functions have the same colors. It is based on the color families that Johnson used when he illustrated a textbook in cell biology 20 years ago and has been adopted in other books.

The Allen Institute for Cell Science hopes that researchers might find new insights using the Integrated Miotic Stem Cell that will advance the current understanding of how cell division works.

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