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Waseda University team sheds light on self-organization of biological structures

Researchers at Waseda University in Japan have identified key information to help explain the formation of the “spindle apparatus”, a structure required for cell division. Their findings shed light on the mechanisms behind “self-organization” – an essential characteristic of biological structures.

Organisms are composed of a variety of structures including muscles, internal organs, and brains, all of which are created through a process known as self-organization. In a study published in the online journal, Cell Reports, the research team examined how the spindle apparatus self-organizes. Composed of fibrous molecules called microtubules, this structure is responsible for the segregation of chromosomes between daughter cells.

Researchers around the world are interested in the mechanisms of spindle formation because if chromosome segregation does not take place correctly in human cells, the process can cause cancer or birth defects. Previous studies have identified molecular motors and a range of other molecules involved in spindle formation. But certain fundamental data remain missing, particularly concerning the relationship between the amount of microtubules and the size and shape of spindles.

Using fluorescence microscopy, Jun Takagi and his colleagues at Waseda University observed self-organizing spindles from the eggs of aquatic frogs. Based on their observations, the team derived a simple mathematical model describing the relationship between the size and shape of the spindle apparatus and the density and amount of microtubules. This successful characterization of the key parameters that determine spindle structures during self-organization is particularly useful in understanding the physical mechanisms of ‘self-organization’ in orderly structures.

Source: Waseda

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