Researchers at Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s national academic institution, have identified a new form of cell division that does not involve the replication of DNA.
The discovery, published in the journal Nature on April 27, provides new insight on one of the most elementary processes that allow for life to thrive on Earth.
Since the 1870s, only two forms of cell division have been known to science: meiosis, which involves germ (sperm or egg) cells; and mitosis, which involves all other cells of the body.
Using zebrafish larvae, the team at Academia Sinica observed how some skin cells underwent up to two rounds of division by splitting — instead of duplicating — their DNA.
The process, which the scientists called asynthetic fission, reportedly occurs so quickly that “mistakes” have been observed, such as an uneven separation of DNA between new cells.
Despite such mistakes, the zebrafish naturally eliminated the erroneous cells and replaced them with normal ones weeks later.
The scientists, who used a multicolor cell membrane tagging system to track the cells’ development, believe the process can occur beyond the young zebrafish’s skin.
Research lead Dr. Chen-Hui Chen, of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology, has been studying how the zebrafish is able to regenerate complex tissues — which make up the spinal cord, major organs and appendages — and hopefully use findings to help humans.
“We focus our efforts on key knowledge gaps that would be best addressed with the zebrafish model. We aim to combine large-scale cell imaging and genetics with systems-level analyses for uncovering the cellular and molecular mechanisms of regeneration. The long-term goal of my lab is to translate our findings for enhancing regenerative capacity of human tissues and organs,” Chen said.