What could we possibly have in common with yeast?
In the 1980s, researchers discovered something we share with yeast and almost every other living thing: a gene that tells each cell in our bodies when to divide and grow.
We all start life as a single cell, which grows and then divides over and over again. In 1987, Paul Nurse and Melanie Lee from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund discovered the human version of a gene known to trigger this process in yeast. Scientists soon realised that the process of cell division is amazingly similar between yeast, humans and everything in between.
Because it’s easier to study complex processes in simple organisms like yeast, scientists could answer important questions about how cells grow in humans much more quickly, saving years of research.
Schizosaccharomyces pombe yeast
The Imperial Cancer Research Fund laboratories are now part of the Francis Crick Institute, where Paul (who won a Nobel Prize for his work) is now Director.
Here, Frank Uhlmann uses yeast to study how cells organise and separate their DNA when they divide, helping us understand how this process might go wrong in human development and disease