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Stare Into This Genetic Material and Be Terrified

Just another day in the unfathomably complex world of cell biology.
November 16, 2014, 2:00pm

Way down at the very bottom of us are cells dividing. It's happening right now, the micro-architectures behind your whole being are splitting into two new cells: things are growing, things are dying. DNA is duplicated, cleaved. Cells differentiate and tissue grows.

Viewing the process puts into relief the tremendous, incomprehensible amount of work and organization goes into us. We could be the lamest-ass humans to roam planet Earth in the history of lame-ass humans, yet all of this work and organization continues …


George von Dassow, a biologist at the University of Oregon, studies the process of cellular division in invertebrate animals. Here, "cells are large, have little else to do besides divide, and don't grow between divisions," he writes on his website.

Von Dassow's image above (via @MicroPicz) is the point where the metaphase of cell division, in which the chromosomes of the parent cell gather around the cell's middle/equator, moves into anaphase, in which the chromosomes are split up between a pair of daughter cells.

Next, individual nuclei will form in each of the offspring cells, along with nuclear membranes. This is the telophase, the final stage of cell division (below). It happens around the same time as cytokinesis, the process by which the actual cellular stuff—the cytoplasm of organelles and gel-like substrate—is split in two.

In the average body, this whole process occurs a mere two or three trillion times on any given day, replacing a good chunk of the average human's 37 trillion or so total cells.