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Researchers build diagram of cell cycle clock

For the first time, researchers at the Whitehead Institute have mapped the complete circuit of one of life's most fundamental processesthe cell cycle, which tells cells when to divide. This network diagram describes the genetic switches and connections that form the circuit common to a process found in all living organisms, from bacteria to human beings. The findings were published in the September 21 issue of Cell by Whitehead Member Richard Young and his colleagues.

"This study is important because it shows for the first time that we can use a technique called genome-wide location analysis to map the circuitry underlying many fundamental life processes," says Young, whose lab developed this technique six months ago. "We now have a technique to connect the control switches that make up the network for any living process you can think ofmemory, digestion, aging. In turn, this will shed light on many diseases, which are basically breaks in the circuit."

Mapping the circuits of fundamental processes in health and disease is one of the next steps of the Human Genome Project, which identified the genetic parts list for these processes but not the connections that make life run. Scientists agree that deciphering these circuits is important, but this is the first study to show that it can be done, and therefore provides reason for excitement in the scientific community, say the authors.

The cell cycle is one of life's most important processes, dictating cell division in virtually all aspects of life. Understanding the fundamental cycle of how a cell knows when to divide is key to finding out what goes wrong in diseases such as cancer, where cells divide uncontrollably.

During cell division several events have to occur in an orderly sequencefor instance, the chromosomes of the cell duplicate, the two sets of chromosomes segregate, and the cell splits into two daughter cells. Though scientists knew about the separate stages of the cell cycle,
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Contact: Nadia Halim
halim@wi.mit.edu
617-258-9183
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
28-Sep-2001


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