Researchers have discovered a way to redesign the process by which cells divide.
The development could one day help in the treatment of genetic disorders.
Researchers at the University designed a short-cut for the process by which a cell’s chromosomes - which carry DNA - are split when a cell divides into two.
This basic biological process is essential to allow cells to grow and maintain tissues.
The study focused on part of a chromosome, known as the centromere, which is responsible for division of the chromosome.
Scientists were able to create the short-cut by rerouting a key step in the pathway.
This bypassed several genes which would normally be involved.
Bypassing these genes enables scientists to simplify the assembly of the centromere, making the process more efficient.
This is an example of the potential of the emerging field of synthetic biology – a new approach to understanding and solving problems in biological processes.
The development was made possible using design techniques relevant to the emerging field of synthetic biology.
This involves using engineering methods to redesign biological systems with new or improved functions.
Scientists hope their development - carried out using yeast as a model organism - will inform related work on human chromosomes.
It is hoped to provide tools to tackle various genetic diseases in the future.
The study, supported by the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council, was published in the journal Science.
Our findings should help research aimed at developing human artificial chromosomes as vehicles for use in gene therapy.