Cell undergoing division. Chromosome attachments (green) and microtubules (red). Credit: Cook and Salmon labs, UNC.

This normal cell is undergoing the third phase of cell division, when copied chromosomes align in the middle of the spindle. Chromosome attachments are shown in green, and microtubules are shown in red. The protein Cdt1 helps maintain a stable structure. Scientists previously thought that Cdt1 was only busy during DNA replication, loading proteins onto strands of DNA before they're copied. It now appears that Cdt1 helps another protein, Hec1, to distribute chromosomes evenly between dividing cells. Mistakes in cell division can lead to birth defects and diseases such as cancer, so this discovery could point to novel therapies.

Featured in the June 21, 2012, issue of Biomedical Beat.

Learn more in the extended caption published on LiveScience Link to external Web site.