Belgians discover new type of cell division


Scientists of KULeuven, in collaboration with the University of Ghent, have discovered a new type of cell division which had never been described before. This cell division explains genetic differences within one embryo. The researchers came to this discovery after analysing cow embryos.

This discovery also has implications for humans. Each human life begins as a cell with 46 chromosomes: 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. With normal cell division, copies of both sets of chromosomes are passed on to the new cells after fertilisation. These daughter cells repeat this same process ensuring that the same genetic material is in all cells.

In exceptional cases, the chromosomes of the mother and the father can end up in different cells. This means that an embryo can have genetically different cells which can lead to severe development disorders. The researchers call the process they discovered 'heterogeneous cell division': 'a division according to origin'.

The researchers also developed a new method to determine whether a chromosome originates from the mother or the father. This technique makes it possible, for the very first time, to detect not only abnormalities in the number of chromosomes, but also the origin of these abnormalities.

The discovery was published in Genome Research