Brussels, 16 Jul 2004
Leading scientists from Austria, Germany, Italy, France and the UK have joined forces to tackle the fundamental issue of cell division.
Funded under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), the 11 partners will form the largest integrated research project on cell cycle control. With an 8.5 million euro grant over four years, 'MitoCheck' will systematically study the regulation of mitosis in human cells.
'This project is vital to understand one of the most basic processes of life - making two cells out of one,' said group leader Jan Ellbenberg, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).
Indeed, mitosis is an essential but extremely complex process of life that remains poorly understood at molecular level. It is of vital importance that cells divide properly, as mistakes during cell division can contribute to cancer, and are a leading cause of infertility and mental retardation. Scientists know that protein kinases - a type of enzyme - plays a major role in this process but they do not know how these enzymes bring about the changes in cells that cause them to divide. The MitoCheck initiative has, therefore, been designed to close this knowledge gap through a major integrated European research effort.
The MitoCheck partners will systematically keep track of all genes that are needed for cell division and then validate the product of these genes to see how they are regulated by mitotic kinases. Thus, scientists will discover which genes are active during mitosis and what happens in the cell when these genes are suppressed.
The consortium will then use this information to determine the biochemical regulation of mitotic genes and assess whether mitotic kinases have any diagnosis or therapeutic potential in cancer treatment. As there are several tens of thousands proteins to look at, it will also be necessary to develop advanced technologies to carry out this process in a highly automated way.
'We have set very ambitious goals, which no single research partner could have tackled alone. By bringing together a group of excellent European scientists who contribute expertise in rather diverse areas, we can hope to solve a complex biological puzzle,' said project coordinator Jan-Michael Peters from the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna.
The technologies developed by the consortium will certainly also be useful for future projects in other areas of cell biology.
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