A protein vital to proper cell division could be used to create new tests and treatments for infertility, according to scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
OMRF researchers Roberto Pezza and Mike Dresser collaborated on a paper in the journal PLOS Genetics that shows the importance of a protein called HFM1 in keeping chromosomes attached during meiosis — a special kind of cell division used in reproduction.
If DNA is the book of instructions for making humans, then chromosomes — bundles of genes packed together inside the nucleus of every cell in the body — could be considered the chapters. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell, and they determine everything from a person's gender, height and hair color to basic information about how cells function.
Over time, cells die and are replaced by new cells. To make new cells, chromosomes are duplicated and the cell splits in two, each with its own set of DNA.
But chromosomes have to stick together at the right time and separate at the right time during that process, or else it can cause birth defects, infertility or cancer.
Another critical time for chromosomes is meiosis, which is the process that creates sperm in males and eggs in females.
“Usually when cells divide, they make copies of the chromosomes and then separate them — one complete copy into each new, identical cell,” Pezza said.
“Meiosis is different, because instead of just making a copy, the cell actually divides into four cells, each with one-half the ‘normal' number of the chromosomes.”