We Can Finally Read The ‘Clock’ That Tells How Long Human Cells Have Left to Live

A new study by researchers at New York University (NYU), as published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has established a method of gauging what stage of the cell cycle a living cell is currently at. Previously, it was only possible to take such measurements when working with a dead cell.

Up until now, it’s only been possible to track where cells are in their life cycle once they’re dead. However, a new study outlines a method of analyzing living cells by taking a close look at their nucleus.

Using a cutting-edge fluorescence microscope, researchers were able to observe a previously undetected flicker of the nuclear envelope, which takes place over the course of just a few seconds. The amplitude of this fluctuation was seen to decrease as the cell cycle went on.

This motion could serve as an internal clock, as scientists could take measurements in order to understand what point in the cell cycle a living cell is currently occupying.

The researchers discovered that the human cell nucleus has a previously undetected type of motion: its nuclear envelope flickers, or fluctuates, over a period of a few seconds. Notably, the amplitude of these changes in shape decreases over time during the cell cycle. Moreover, this move marks the first physical feature that systematically changes with the cell cycle.

“Therefore, this process can serve as an internal clock of the cell, telling you at what stage in the cell cycle the cell is,” explains Zidovska. “We know that structural and functional errors of the nuclear envelope lead to a large number of developmental and inherited disorders, such as cardiomyopathy, muscular dystrophy, and cancer. Illuminating the mechanics of nuclear shape fluctuations might contribute to efforts to understand the nuclear envelope in health and disease.”

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R00-GM104152).

You can read the original article here.

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