The discovery could have important implications for the treatment of cancer, birth defects and numerous other diseases and disorders. Gorbsky's findings appear in the April 13 issue of the journal Nature.
"No one has gotten the cell cycle to go backwards before now," said Gorbsky, who holds the W.H. and Betty Phelps Chair in Developmental Biology at OMRF. "This shows that certain events in the cell cycle that have long been assumed irreversible may, in fact, be reversible."
Cell division occurs millions of times each day in the human body and is essential to life itself. In the lab, Gorbsky and his OMRF colleagues were able to control the protein responsible for the division process, interrupt and reverse the event, sending duplicate chromosomes back to the center of the original cell, an event once thought impossible.
"Our studies indicate that the factors pointing cells toward division can be turned and even reversed," Gorbsky said. "If we wait too long, however, it doesn't work, so we know that there are multiple regulators in the cell division cycle. Now we will begin to study the triggers that set these events in motion."
The findings may prove important to controlling the development and metastasis of certain cancers. It also holds promise for the prevention and treatment of birth defects and a wide variety of other conditions.
"Dr. Gorbsky's results provide elegant proof that the cell cycle must be precisely controlled," said Dr. Rodger McEver, OMRF vice president of research. "Now he and his lab can work toward developing innovative methods to probe and better understand the complex process of cell division."
Gorbsky heads the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Research Program at OMRF and holds both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in biology from Princeton University. He is also adjunct professor of Cell Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a member of the OU Cancer Institute. His research focuses on mitosis and cytokinesis, the processes involved in cell division, and he has earned international recognition for his work in the area of chromosomal movement and cell cycle control.
The current research project, done in collaboration with scientists from the University of Virginia Medical School, was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society.
High-resolution digital images of the cell division process, as well as of Gorbsky, are available upon request.
Celebrating its 60th birthday in 2006, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and curing human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. It is home to Oklahoma's only member of the National Academy of Sciences.