Inside every human cell: * Chromosomes – A organised structure of protein and DNA - 22 pairs of autosomes – all genetic heredity

data - 1 pair of sex chromosomes – gender specific heredity data * Mitochondria – Generates the chemical power for the cell. They also send signals to the cell telling it what type of cell it is, when to reproduce, grow or die. *Nucleus - It holds most of the cells chromosomes. It is the control centre that makes the cell perform it’s job. *Nuclear Membrane – a layer that separates the chromosomes from the rest of the cells. Sometimes called a nuclear envelope as contains the entire DNA. Cell Membrane – the wall of the cell holding all the cell contents. *Centrosome – Regulator of the cell cycle progression. The cell contains a lot more than these few components however these are the key players in the cell cycle.

90% of the cell cycle is the Interphase. There are three key stages in this section of the cycle.

G1 Phase – (“first gap”) This is the beginning of the cycle. During this phase the cell grows, preparing itself for the next phase. It is at the end of this phase that the cell reaches it’s first ‘check point’. If any defect are detected the cycle is reset until the defect is fixed or the cell is stopped altogether, putting it into a G0 phase. This ensures that imperfect cells do not reproduce. S Phase – (“synthesis”) It is during this phase that a chromosome replicates itself creating sister chromatids, which are two joined copies of the DNA. G2 Phase – (“second gap”) In this phase the cell prepares for the division as the next part of the cycle involves many complicated molecular processes. It also contains the second ‘check point’ just before the mitosis phase. If the cell has developed any defects since S Phase it is too late at this stage for a cell to return to a G0 phase. A protein is released that destroys the cell completely rather than allow any chance of reproduction of the damaged cell.

(“M Phase”) The final 10% of the cell cycle is the Mitotic Phase. This phase has two key stages that overlap.

Mitosis – This phase has 5 sub-phases which are
Prophase: A cell has two centrosomes. These two centrosomes attach themselves to ropes, called mircotubules, and place themselves at opposite ends of the cell. Prometaphase: the nuclear membrane disintegrates and the ropes grow into the nuclear space. Meanwhile the sister chromatids each form a kinetochore at their joint centromere. The mircotubules latch on to corresponding kinetochore (depending on which side they are on) like a hook latching on to a ring. Metaphase: The centrosomes start ‘reeling’ in their chromatid using the mircotubules. Left over ropes attach themselves together and send signals between each other to regulate the pulling, keeping it even. This is the third and final ‘checkpoint’. Both of the chromatid must line up equally at the metaphase plate. At this point the sisters remain attached until given the ‘all clear’ by the checkpoint.

Anaphase: the sister chromatid are cut apart becoming daughter chromosomes and pulled in to opposite ends of the cell by the centrosomes. Once there, the kinetochores and the mircotubules that were attached to them disintegrate. The cell itself begins to elongate now. This is caused by the ‘extra ropes’ (that sent the signals at the checkpoint) stretching, pushing the cell apart. Telophase: The cell continues to stretch while the mitosis is completed. The new daughter chromosomes form a new nuclear membrane using recycled bits from the parent nuclear. Cytokinesis: This is the division of the cell itself as opposed to the chromosome. This began in the Anaphase of mitosis. The microtubules, that weren’t being used to winch the sister chromatids apart, had attached themselves together and at this stage begin to stretch out causing the cell to elongate. After the telophase the cell forms a cleavage furrow or a pinch (the same place that the metaphase plate was located). This pinch has a contracting ring that squeezes the cell dividing the two new nuclei eventually breaking off into two separate cells.

Knowing this first part is essential to understanding how a cell can mutate in to a cancer cell. Cells communicate using different protein and hormones, cancer cell are unable to read these. There are thousands of different cancers that affect every possible cell in the body. Generally, a cancerous cell will ignore the checkpoints and divide anyway making more daughter cells with the same defect. A cell can be sent into G0 phase for two reasons; either the cell was defective and sent to repair or the cell is on a rest period. Rest periods are usually because there is no more need for that cell type at that time. Hair cells rapidly reproduce for a particular amount of time then rest; it is at this time hair can fall out. The time between growth and rest differ throughout the body, for example, the hair on our heads has long periods of rest and growth, whereas arm hair rest and growth periods are shorter, thus why it’s shorter hair. Cancer cells ignore the stop signals and continue to rapidly reproduce creating more mutated, cancerous cells. Because of the volume of cells a tumour can start to develop (depending on the cancer type) creating a lump that can be seen or felt externally. Cells are able to mutate into other cell types or travel through the bloodstream which is how cancer can spread to other organs.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the White Blood Cells (WBC). WBC are made in the bone marrow of long bones (like the femur or humorous). They are the body’s immune system; when an infection, bacteria or any foreign body is detected the WBC are alerted and are sent, in mass, to defend the body against the infiltration. When first made in the bone marrow they are called haematopoietic stem cells. This is before they are ‘assigned’ a cell type. There are two categories of WBC that contain different WBC, these cells also have more variations of themselves, each with a different complex job (for the sake of this research the main cell type is enough to understand the cancer cell process) they are:

*Lymphoid Lineages–
T-Cell B-Cell NK-Cell

*Myeloid –
Monocytes Macrophages Neutrophils Basophils Eosinophils Erythrocytes Platelets (megakaryocytes) Dendritic Cells

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) affects the lymphoid cells while in the bone marrow (the same cancer cell can occur in body tissue, this is called Lymphoma). The lymphoid cells rapidly reproduce before maturing as they ignore the stop signals sent at the checkpoints. This means that these immature cells can’t perform their defence jobs properly if there is an attack on the body but also the cancerous bone can’t make any healthy blood cells (including red cells). This makes leukaemia sufferers highly susceptible to infection and disease as well as anaemic. Leukaemia can be Acute or Chronic. *Acute – rapidly reproducing immature cells. This can spread to other organs quickly and requires immediate treatment. *Chronic – the WBC are relatively mature but still abnormal. These take a lot longer to spread.

Dr. Klappa, (2012). The Cell Cycle. Rochester. [Lecture at UCA: Rochester, 19 March 2012]. Cells Alive. The Cell Cycle. At: http://www.cellsalive.com/cell_cycle.htm (23/04/2012) Wikipedia. Cell Cycle. At: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_cycle (23/04/2012) Children with Cancer. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). At: http://www.childrenwithcancer.org.uk/acute-lymphoblastic-leukaemia (23/04/2012)

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