Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sign in

The Cell Cycle and Cancer

06/07/2006 1:00 PM 46-3002
Angelika Amon, Associate Professor of Biology, MIT;; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Description: We all start out as a single fertilized cell, and wind up, as fully formed humans, with 10 to the 13th cells. -The name of the game,” says Angelika Amon, is to replicate the genetic information in those cells accurately. -Only if that happens all the time and with high fidelity will you end up with a healthy individual.” Amon shows a beautiful video of dance-like cell division in the African blood lily, which demonstrates the migration of chromosomes to opposite ends of the cell -- prelude to a single cell becoming two daughter cells. It's -like a curtain opening,” Amon says in wonder. This process of cell division, she continues, is -highly conserved” among organisms. For instance, if a yeast cell contains a defect that prevents it from dividing correctly, plugging in the human equivalent of a protein to correct the defect will enable the yeast to begin dividing again. Amon describes how cells contain special proteins called growth factors that work together to inhibit or initiate cell division. -The cell puts in place layers and layers of controls, like an onion,” says Amon. If someone inherits a mutation that affects one of these growth factors, then cells may proliferate uncontrollably. Another route to cancer is if a cell's internal mechanisms for detecting DNA damage malfunctions, perhaps due to exposure to X-rays or UV rays. When these checkpoints break down, instead of putting the brakes on cell division, the cell will proceed unchecked through division with broken chromosomes, or extra chromosomes. Pieces of DNA lie around, information gets lost or amplified and -a mess ensues.” Researchers have identified several key chromosomes in which defects lead to malfunctioning growth factors or checkpoints. And they've begun to design new drugs that target the specific proteins involved in these errant cell growth pathways.

About the Speaker(s): Angelika Amon has been a faculty member of the Center for Cancer Research since 1999. Previously, she was a Whitehead Institute fellow.

She was born in Austria in 1967, and earned her bachelor's and doctoral degrees at the University of Vienna. She first came to the U.S. in 1994 for postdoctoral studies.

Amon has analyzed the yeast cell cycle as the first step in an effort to unravel the controls that govern cell-cycle progression. In 2003, she received the National Science Foundation's $500,000 Alan T. Waterman Award, NSF's highest honor for young scientists and engineers.

Host(s): School of Science, School of Science

Comments (0)

It looks like no one has posted a comment yet. You can be the first!

You need to log in, in order to post comments.

MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

Category: Events | Updated 12 months ago

December 13, 2011 13:01
All Rights Reserved (What is this?)
Additional Files

5197 times

More from MIT World — special events and lectures

Comparative Insights: Marshall Plan, Japan, and Iraq

Comparative Insights: Marshall Plan...

Added almost 5 years ago | 01:57:00 | 5233 views

Sex Battles in the Brain

Sex Battles in the Brain

Added almost 5 years ago | 00:46:01 | 8123 views

Innovation in Energy Storage: What I Learned in 3.091 was All I Needed to Know

Innovation in Energy Storage: What ...

Added almost 5 years ago | 00:48:03 | 17302 views

Stuck: Why It's So Hard to Do New Things in Old Organizations

Stuck: Why It's So Hard to Do New T...

Added almost 5 years ago | 01:00:00 | 6288 views

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Why Chemomechanical Design of Materials is Critical to Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Wh...

Added almost 5 years ago | 00:49:15 | 10763 views

Report Card on President Obama: MIT Experts Assess President Obama on Afghanistan, Climate, and the Economy

Report Card on President Obama: MIT...

Added almost 5 years ago | 01:27:00 | 22013 views