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Cell Division Reversed for the First Time 238

SubtleGuest writes "Gary J. Gorbsky, Ph.D., a scientist with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, has found a way to reverse the process of cell division. The discovery could have important implications for the treatment of cancer, birth defects and numerous other diseases and disorders. Gorbsky's findings appear in the April 13 issue of the journal Nature. "No one has gotten the cell cycle to go backwards before now," said Gorbsky. "This shows that certain events in the cell cycle that have long been assumed irreversible may, in fact, be reversible." In the lab, Gorbsky and his OMRF colleagues were able to control the protein responsible for the division process, interrupt and reverse the event, sending duplicate chromosomes back to the center of the original cell, an event once thought impossible. Here is a video of it happening."
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Cell Division Reversed for the First Time

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  • by WhatsAProGingrass ( 726851 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:05AM (#15119124) Homepage
    And here [] is the video of cell division. only its played in reverse. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:05AM (#15119126)
    It might not be too late to 'take back' that decision you made to have children 10 years ago?
  • ... and we are loosing that war. i've heard many times, and have even caught myself saying, that there will be a cure for cancer soon. hasn't happened yet. so whenever i hear:

    important implications for the treatment of cancer

    i get my hopes up for a little while, just as most of the world has since the War on Cancer was officially announced in the 50's, and untold amounts of money have been spent by the NIH. but the truth is, i probably need to quit smoking to have the best chance at not dying from canc
    • sorry, my uncle just died from lymphoma this weekend, and i keep staring at the cigarette i'm smoking with a pained look.

      I've always assumed that most smokers are people with untreated ADHD. Has anyone read anything to indicate whether or not this is the case?

      The positive effects of smoking (feeling calmed down and more focused) are the same effects of ADHD medication except, obviously, the medication won't cause cancer, it is given in a dose that is consistent through the entire day, and it is not addi

      • It wouldn't. A smoker only feels "calmed down" because their craving has been satiated. The physical effects of nicotine increase stress on the brain and heart, they can focus because they're not constantly thinking about when they'll get their next hit, or how long they'll have to wait.
        • But nicotine is a stimulant just like ADHD medications are. Are you sure that there aren't multiple things going on at the same time here? I don't know anything about the biology, so you may well be right, but I'd be interested in a url to some information on a correlation or lack thereof between ADHD and smoking. Also, what do you mean by increased stress on the brain?
        • A smoker only feels "calmed down" because their craving has been satiated

          Actually, a smoker feels calmed down due to elevated levels of dopamine generated by the nicotine. While withdrawl symptoms can cause stress which is then relieved by more nicotine, that doesn't discount the stimulant effects of smoking.

          • >> A smoker only feels "calmed down" because their craving has been satiated

            > Actually, a smoker feels calmed down due to elevated levels of dopamine generated by
            > the nicotine. While withdrawl symptoms can cause stress which is then relieved by more
            > nicotine, that doesn't discount the stimulant effects of smoking.

            You are both right. The dopamine effect is what gets people hooked on nicotine in the first place, but as use continues, the dopamine effect lessens and the cravings take over.

        • Funny is that this whole business is just 'in your head'. The physical need for nicotine lasts 3-4 days after you smoke your last cig. After that it's just your mind that wants the nicotine.
        • It wouldn't.

          It did make it easier for me.

          I quit smoking when I started taking Concerta. It was still hard to do, and I had to use patches for a few months, but I was able to quit.

          The GP is correct - part of the reason I smoked was that it gave me focus (I assume because of the acetylcholine/nicotine gateways in my brain), and having something that worked better, lasted longer, and wouldn't give me lung cancer was a big help.
      • Close, but not quite. I'm the opposite of ADHD. As a kid I could focus intently on one task for hours, oblivious to everything around me. And I didn't smoke as a kid :-) If smokers simply had untreated ADHD, then they would have had ADHD as kids before they learned to smoke.

        But you are right in a way. Smoking did calm me down, and after I quit I felt really stupid for about a year because I couldn't focus well.
      • I can't claim firsthand knowledge of whether ADHD medication would help a smoker quit, but I'll attest to the fact that on the occasions I skip my morning Adderall, I'm pretty damn likely to find myself in line for a pack of Parliaments later that day. And as long as I stay on the pills, that is for weeks at a stretch, I won't need to smoke at all. My doctor mentioned the same thing re: ADHD-type personalities frequently found to self-medicate with cigarettes, and it seems perfectly natural to me. Obvious,
      • by Colonel Angus ( 752172 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:59AM (#15119887)
        ADHD medication? No. Depression medication? Yes.

        Zyban, a fanfrickin'tastic smoking cessation pill, is simply remarketed Welbutrin. Welbutrin is an anti-depressant.

        It seems that they discovered many of the smokers taking Welbutrin reported a marked decrease in cigarette cravings. Now you can buy the *exact* same drug with a different colour coating and a different name to help you quit smoking.

        I have taken it. I was doing well, until a death in the family (non-cancer or smoking-related) buggered me up. Pathetic excuse, I know.

        But while I was on Zyban I would literally go hours (unheard of any other time) without even thinking about a cigarette. It's really something else.
    • As someone who quit smoking two years ago, let me tell you the easiest way to do it: just do it! It's that simple. There are things that will help, but the core of it is to simply stop.

      I woke up one day and said "I'm going to quit next monday." I spent that week tapering off somewhat, and used the patch when I quit. I don't know how much of an effect the tapering and patch had, but they were isignificant compared to the effect of simply quitting.
      • Or, you could always join Quitters, Inc. []...
    • > We've been at war with cancer for over 50 years and we are loosing that war. Loosing that war on who? Loosing it on "ze Germans"?
    • Actually, "cancer" is an umbrella name for a large group of different diseases with different causes and symptoms. More and more of them are curable or at least treatable.

      But yeah, quitting smoking would be a good idea for a number of reasons, of course...

    • ... and we are loosing that war.
      Losing, there are more then 6 billions of us, we aren't losing to cancer, only some of us are.
    • you can quit. say this often.

      i've been a non-smoker for 1 year, 51 weeks (my stop anniversary is 4/20! hah!)

      the thing that finally worked for me was practice. you gotta practice quitting until you get it right. 1 day, 3 weeks, 14 months, whatever, if you fail, try again, and try again soon.

      the other thing that helps in quitting is knowing yourself: why you smoke, why you want to smoke, what helps you not want to smoke, etc. self knowledge and a bit of determination is about all you need. oh, yeah, tr
    • Considering that cancer is pretty much cell mitosis gone amok, I can see why this would be exciting. Couple this with cell apopsis and you might be able to cure the scourge of the 20th and 21st centuries.

      I can only hope. But then I've got a witches brew of ALS, cancer and what not in my family.
  • There must be a Cell processor story somewhere that Slashdot could post. That would make it three cell stories in a row. It's funny becuase it's repeated.
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkProphet ( 114727 ) <(chadwick_nofx) (at) (> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:30AM (#15119173)
    If this is for real, all I can say is

    Holy shit!

    It would be theoretically possible to create a certain protein which targets cell-specific division. Like cancer cells. It wouldn't eradicate the cancerous cells, but it would certainly slow or possibly stop the cells' replication.

    Of course, I imagine the devil's in the details...
  • I'm quite curious, could someone explain what sort of technology is used to observe chemical reactions at such a small level? (such as that in the video)
    • by dthx1138 ( 833363 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:50AM (#15119217)
      I believe it's called a "micro-scope" Microscope []

      Popular Mechanics hasn't covered this one yet as it's only been around for about 400 years

    • On the left you are seeing phase contrast microscopy, changes in the cell cause changes in the refraction of light. On the right hand you are seeing fluorescence microscopy, special fluorescent proteins have been added on the end of specific proteins in the cell and when certain light is applied they fluoresce.
    • From the article "Time-lapse phasecontrast and fluorescence images were collected from cells grown on glass coverslips using a Zeiss Axiovert 200M microscope equipped with a Hamamatsu ORCA camera." They use a fancy (and expensive) inverted light microscope with a digital camera attached to it to take the images. The section on the right part of the movie is made using with a fluorescence stain as the cell proceeds through mitosis. There is a light source attached to the microscope that emits light at a
    • Not a dumb question at all. The images you see of the stringy stuff are actually time-lapse images (ie. still images taken once every few seconds/minutes/hours depending on your application) of the flouresence given off by GFP, or Green Flourescent Protein, attached to Alpha tubulin.

      GFP is a natural protein that was originally found in the genome some sort of deep-sea fish (I forget which), but has been used by biologists for myriad purposes since then. Bascially, it's a protein, but because of the specif
  • by helioquake ( 841463 ) * on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:33AM (#15119181) Journal
    So one cell gets split and then they merge back together again and again?

    Just like Eminem and Kim?
  • Reverse (Score:5, Funny)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:45AM (#15119206)
    "a scientist with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, has found a way to reverse the process of cell division."

    Eeewww!! Grosss!!

    Anybody else also reminded of those "see me eat my hamburger in reverse" videos?
  • Like my raincoat!


  • by deopmix ( 965178 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:52AM (#15119228)
    The article doesn't say if the chromosomes merge back into one or not. I can't imagine that this would be possible, given the complexity of DNA. So does the cell just sit there with two sets of chromosomes. Also, would this be a way to build some kind of super muscle, with twice as many mitochondria?
    • Also, would this be a way to build some kind of super muscle, with twice as many mitochondria?

      I doubt it. However, it may be the process the mondocheewans used to produce leeloowallawallabingbangwatermelonsauerkrautdallas multipass.

    • Human cells can't live with 2x (92) the diplood number (46) of chromosomes. Our cells can only handle the one set it's supposed to have. Just having one duplicate chromosome can cause problems like Down's syndrome which is caused by having an extra 21st chromosome. The merged cell in this case would probably end up dying and lysing itself.
    • by shawb ( 16347 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @05:05AM (#15119538)
      This paper [] said in the summary that this process leads to "realignment of chromosomes at themetaphase plate." So, they do not merge back into one.

      What the scientists were mostly concerned with is the fact that this supported the theory that a particular protein directed cell division, at least during a certain phase. The partial reversal of mitosis was just an interesting side effect. The medical and other biological research interest comes in place because now that we have identified this protein and proven that it is indeed the one that regulates mitosis, we can prevent further mitosis by the use of an inhibitor chemical. While this may seem to be a possible cure for cancer, such a discovery would be extremely difficult to put into practice as a pill you take or shot you take. This inhibitor would likely suspend mitosis of ALL cells, breaking down the functioning of many biological processes. Unless a compound is found that preferentially affects cancer cells, which may be possible due to the high division rate in some forms of cancer. This would have little to no effect on cancers caused by a failure in apoptosis. Then again "Cancer" is just a blanket term for a large number of different disorders in which a group of cells grows and divides without control, causing detriment to the rest of the body. Making cancer study mroe difficult is that it often takes failures in several different control systems for a cell to become carcinogenic, as there is a fair bit of redundancy built into these sytems. A "predisposition" to a certain type of cancer often means that one of the inherited genes controlling one arm of the control system is already flawed, so less somatic mutations [] are required before carcinogenesis. Inherited failure in too many of the control pathways would probably result in termination or developmental failure at a very early stage of embryonic development.
    • Probably not: mitochondria have their own genetic material, and I'm pretty sure this doesn't work with them. (Their internals are odd and moderately different than the nuclear DNA proteins.) Mitochondria are inherited from the mother cell whole, and slowly divide on their own to repopulate a new daughter cell.

      If you wanted to build a super muscle you'd probably mess about with its ability to produce actin and myosin and with its nutrient bandwidth -- getting it to be able to hold more glycogen in the firs
  • On how long until this is made into a weapon. Large-scale reverse-division on a complex organism would have some very unpleasant consequences, and on other scales one could probably use the concept to reverse/prevent healing.
  • Finally! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @03:07AM (#15119269) Homepage
    I can use this cell undevision (fusion?) technique to revert myself to a giant sperm. And I'll be smart enough to choose the best genes before finding myself an equally oversized egg to start over. Who wouldn't want in-home eugenics?
  • I wonder if it is possible for the cell to redivide after the reverse happened. This could end up being some control mechanism for nanobots or nano-medicine.
  • Wouldn't the reverse of cell division simply be cell multiplication? [] That doesn't sound so hard.
  • Where are the Tuttle jokes? What's happened with Slashdot? The story mentions Oklahoma, people! Let's get on the ball!

    You know, maybe they can reverse that city manager's cell division! Ha ha!

    No, wait, let me try again.

    In Tuttle, Oklahoma, the cells divide you!

    Okay. Maybe there's a reason no one's done a Tuttle joke yet. Although "unfunny" doesn't usually count as a reason on Slashdot.
  • d00d! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @04:01AM (#15119412)
    The inverse of division is multiplication, so cell division is its own inverse.

    *Kryten's head explodes*
  • by dondelelcaro ( 81997 ) <> on Thursday April 13, 2006 @04:04AM (#15119423) Homepage Journal
    The ability to return a cell to metaphase upon the removal of a chemical (Flavopiridol) which causes the mitotic exit of cells which are expressing non-degredatable Cyclin B is interesting, but it definetly tells us nothing about how to reverse this process in non-transformed human cells. The press release is a bit too effusive about the potential of this finding to radically transform the treatment of cancer, etc. as the finding primarily recomfirms the hypothesis that the degredation of cyclin B is what gives directionality to the cell process, and by blocking the degredation of Cyclin B, you can reverse the cell cycle.

    And just in case you're confused like the submitter, there's way more than one protein involved in the cell division process in any eukaryotic cell; Cyclins like Cyclin B are very important, but it's a whole host of proteins that are involved in ushering the cell from G1 to S to G2 to M; assuring alignment, proper exit, arrest upon damage, etc. [One could even argue that the whole point of most cells is to divide, and so every bit of the cell is important and/or participates in some way in the process...]
    • Very true, but would this paper get any mainstream play if nobody played up the vague cure for cancer angle? "Scientists confirm obscure detail of biological process" doesn't make for much of a headline...
  • ... a way to get the Beatles back together. Science!
  • Think of the military uses: You drop a reverse-cell bomb over, oh, let's just say Tehran, and their cells reverse, and they all go back to being children! And because they are too short to reach the control panels anymore, the whole problem of them building the bomb vanishes, too! All they need is a good spanking. Oh, and diapers maybe, depending on the dose...

  • Be real (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @07:18AM (#15119766)
    It's not a cure for old age, its no longer possible after a certain point so you can't reverse an entire lineage back to one cell.

    It's not going to reverse cancer either, for the same reason. What it *might* do, if you can determine on a cellular level which cells are cancerous, is halt the growth (assuming it doesn't just start dividing again. It doesn't even say if the DNA recombines, which I doubt it would do.

    The real value is that old scientific standby, knowledge. Greater knowledge of what makes a cell tick, what factors trigger when its ready to divide will result in new cures, safer cures, and, of course, new understanding. If we can figure out why a cell divides, we can perhaps block those triggers and stop the division of cells like cancer. Greatly slowing or even stopping cell metabolism and division will be an important part of imposing a long term stasis or hibernation in humans experiencing long space travels to mars and the like. Understanding how to trigger cell reproduction could be one of the most important steps in reviving persons who have cyrogenically frozen themselves, too.
  • What if we were able to reverse fertilization? After all that's a combination of two cells. When will life begin then?

  • by Rydia ( 556444 )
    Not quite as impressive as the blurb would have us believe, but it a very good start. My only concern is how long it can prevent mitosis, since it seems to just push the cell back through one phase. It seems that you need to saturate the cell in protease inhibitor to stop it... I'm wondering how this would actually turn into a workable cancer treatment, since you can't just dump a load of inhibitors into the person's system and hope they accumulate in the cancer cells... that would lead to problems elsewher
  • Now if they can roll back the state of cells in the chemical end-state known as "dead", my creature will finally see the light of day and walk the earth!
  • "I am only an egg." - Valentine Michael Smith
  • by trongey ( 21550 ) on Thursday April 13, 2006 @02:46PM (#15123255) Homepage
    Now we can prove evolution. Just reverse all the cells back to their previous state until we get back to the original single-cell organism.

    OK. Sure, nobody would be around any more to see it, but that's beside the point.

    It would also be a great opportunity for Earth to pass on that whole human mistake.
  • When my kids are ultra bratty, I always threaten to "put them back inside mommy". Now maybe I can enforce that threat.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!