Chromosomes (pink) in the fission yeast S. pombe, one of the model organisms used in our research.

Frank Uhlmann : Chromosome Segregation Laboratory

We are studying how cells organise and separate their DNA when they divide, and finding out how mistakes in this process underpin human disease.

Every human cell contains more than two metres of DNA, divided up into 23 pairs of chromosomes (lengths of DNA), making 46 in total. Every time a cell divides to make two new cells, the original ‘parent’ cell must copy all of its DNA, then divide the chromosomes equally between the two ‘daughters’, ensuring that each one ends up with the correct set of 23 pairs. Problems with this process lead to cells ending up with the wrong number of chromosomes, which might cause them to stop dividing, die or even become cancerous.

Using yeast as a model for human cells, we are investigating how cells organise and separate their chromosomes as they divide and finding out how they make sure that each daughter ends up with exactly the right number. We are particularly interested in studying the molecules that pack down the chromosomes as a cell gets ready to divide, and the biological ‘glue’ that holds them together until it is time to separate into the daughter cells.

As well as understanding more about how chromosomes are built and separated, we also study the cellular signals that make the process of cell division happen at the right time. Together, our findings could point towards new approaches for preventing or treating human disease in the future.