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Studying the role of aneuploidy in cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Renata Basto
  • Institution: Institute Curie
  • Award Amount: £212,382 for 3 years from January 2013
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Studying the role of aneuploidy in cancer
All the information that our cells need is carried in code in our DNA, which make up our genes. Our genes are located in long structures called chromosomes. When cells gain or lose whole chromosomes by mistake, they contain the wrong amount of DNA and the wrong number of genes. This is called ‘aneuploidy’. We still don’t fully understand how aneuploidy affects how our body functions. If it happens when the foetus is growing, it can cause miscarriage or the baby to be born with mental and physical disabilities, such as Down syndrome.

However, aneuploidy also happens in many human cancers. Aneuploidy happens when a cell makes a mistake when it divides and it doesn’t split its chromosomes equally between the two daughter cells. The centrosome is a small unit within our cells that helps to control the equal separation of chromosomes to the two new cells during cell division. The presence of more than two centrosomes during cell division can cause aneuploidy.

Dr Basto and her team have created a mouse model where it is possible to cause aneuploidy by increasing the number of centrosomes within cells. They tested increasing the number of centrosomes at different times during the growth and development of the mouse embryo. The results show that the change in centrosome numbers only causes a lot of aneuploidy early on in the development of the embryo, but very little aneuploidy later on. They will use this mouse model to study what happens within cells when extra centrosomes are present, as well as looking at whether the low level of aneuploidy that happens later on in the development of the embryo can lead to tumour development, as well as studying the molecules that are involved in these processes.

This study, looking at one of the most fundamental processes of life, should reveal important information about the early processes used by cancer cells to multiply.
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