Bar-Ilan Returning Scientist Co-Authors Study Published in Nature Methods
Date: 2012-08-08 Hour: 12:27
Dr. Amit Tzur, a Bar-Ilan University Returning Scientist, is one of a team of MIT and Harvard Medical School researchers whose study on mammalian cell growth and size regulation is published in the latest issue of Nature Methods.
An important area of Dr. Tzur's research focuses on controlling the growth of dividing cells. Dividing cells double their size during their life cycle so that at the time of division, the cell is twice the size it was at birth. This process, known as cell growth, occurs with precision and amazing timing. Because the cells maintain their size from generation to generation, it is likely that during the process of division and growth they actually "speak" to one another.
For years, it has been known that in single-cell organisms, such as yeast, there is an intracellular link that synchronizes the division mechanism with the growth mechanism. In multi-cellular organisms, cell division and cell growth may be inspected separately via signals emanating from outside the cell, so for years it was believed that there is no need for an intracellular mechanism that synchronizes the division mechanism with the growth mechanism, similar to that of single-cell organisms.
Theoretically, it is possible to trace such a mechanism by accurate measurement of cell size during its lifetime and calculating the rate of cell growth. But until recently, it was impossible to perform these measurements in multi-cell organisms and, therefore, this question remained unanswered. Far more complex is to monitor the growth concomitantly with the cell cycle progression so one can report the relationship between size, growth and the cell's milestones throughout its life cycle.
The study published this week combines expertise in cellular biology, computational biology and cutting-edge engineering to show that mammalian cells, similar to single-cell organisms, have an ability to sense their size and regulate cell division in accordance. Since the size of the cell is so vital to the functioning of the tissue to which it belongs, maintaining constant cell size is critical -- hence the importance of this mechanism.
The discovery was made in the framework of Dr. Tzur's post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School and is a follow-up to an initial breakthrough published in Science in 2009.
Dr. Tzur, a cell biologist, returned to Israel in 2010 after five years at Harvard Medical School. A native of Karmiel, he assumed a post at Bar-Ilan University's Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and the University's Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA). He and his research team are now attempting to learn how this mechanism works in the cell and what its implications are in normal and cancerous cells.