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Ben Black, assistant professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Nikolina Sekulic, a postdoctoral fellow in the Black lab, report in the September 16 issue of Nature the structure of the CENP-A molecule, which defines a part of the chromosome called the centromere. This is a constricted area to which specialized molecules called spindle fibers attach that help pull daughter cells apart during cell division.
"Our work gives us the first high-resolution view of the molecules that control genetic inheritance at cell division," says Black. "This is a big step forward in a puzzle that biologists have been chipping away at for over 150 years."
Besides the major advance in the understanding of the molecules driving human inheritance, this work also brings about the exciting prospect that the key components are now in hand to engineer clinically useful artificial chromosomes that will be inherited alongside our own natural chromosomes—and with the same high fidelity.