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Additionally, our results suggest that cells can use the degree of compaction of the nucleolus as a mechanism for stopping the progression of the cell cycle in adverse conditions, such as a lack of nutrients," explains the project director, Fernando Monje.
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Controlling aging processes and treating viral infections Both the distribution of the cell contents across the daughter cells and the specific retention of "old" components in a cell are important processes in aging.
In this case, as well, a finely controlled mixing and separating of phases is an important process that determines the fate of cells.
A further possible application would be viral infections: When viruses infect cells, they often trigger the phase separation of molecules.
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In this way, they create isolated areas in which new viruses can form.The peculiar structure of the nucleolus is, however, inconvenient for the cells.So once the genome is copied for distribution between daughter cells during cell division, unions generated between the chromosomes can interfere with their correct distribution during mitosis.Many protein defects that possibly cause neurodegenerative problems are also presumably the consequence of a failed intracellular phase separation."Thanks to the discovery as to which proteins control phase separation, new strategies can be pursued to prevent mistakes in this process," says Pelkmans.Their discovery opens up new opportunities for the treatment of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, aging processes and viral infections.As every cook has experienced: When balsamic vinegar and olive oil are mixed, both liquids separate.It is estimated that more than 90 percent of all solid tumours in humans are caused by aneuploidy.For that reason, understanding the mechanisms that guarantee the fidelity of genome transmission during cell division is of enormous importance for understanding how errors in this process can cause the appearance of tumours.When a cell divides, its constituents are usually evenly distributed among the daughter cells.Researchers have now identified an enzyme that guarantees that cell constituents that are concentrated in organelles without a membrane are properly distributed.