Biologists in the 20th century broke down the cell into parts, and now 21st-century researchers are figuring out how to put those components back together.
Take the spindle, which lines up chromosomes during cell division before pulling them apart, ensuring that each daughter cell inherits the parent cell’s genes.
“The spindle has an infinite number of varieties because it’s in all these different types of eukaryotic cells,” says Michael Shelley, group leader for biophysical modeling and director of the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Biology (CCB). “It’s made up of microtubules and motors and crosslinkers but has different structures in different cells.”
Exactly how rigid rods and microscopic motors choreograph this fundamental line dance remains unknown, but Shelley and his collaborators aim to find out.