Researchers Tangle with the Secrets of Life

The CDK protein Source: Photo: Wikimedia Commons

University of Tartu researchers have made new discoveries in the cell division cycle, one of life's fundamental processes, and the knowledge may help develop a more efficient treatment for cancer.

The new study, part of researcher Mardo Kõivomägi's doctoral thesis which was published in the journal Molecular Cell, is the first to conclude that the protein CDK - which regulates the cell division process sort of like an on/off switch - is a trigger that changes at different times of the cellular division process, and is not constant, as was previously thought.

"During our research, we discovered that the CDK ability to give signals to various molecules changes constantly during the cell cycle and isn't stable, as was long the understanding," said biomedical technology researcher Mart Loog. "Hence we created a model that describes the changes of those signals during the cell division cycle. We also put together the first system to classify those signals, which is based on the yeast cell model."

In cancer cells, Loog said, the function of CDK protein is interrupted by a genetic mutation, and cellular division is out of control. It can be thought of as a switch that doesn't want to turn off.

But studying how the CDK protein acts in cancer cases may be the key for learning how to interrupt a cell division process gone bad while avoiding damage to healthy cells. "To turn the switch off, [we] must understand the inner mechanism," said Loog.


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