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Our DNA is wrapped up in a protective bubble known as the nuclear envelope, and it’s long been thought that this barrier was pretty ironclad. But new research published in Science finds it actually breaks apart pretty often — but that also might not be a problem. Here’s what researcher Matthieu Piel of Institut Curie said about the findings.

How is DNA stored in the cells in human bodies?

[Humans] have their DNA separated from the rest of the cell in a compartment called the nucleus. Until now it was thought that, except in cases of very dangerous disease, the nuclear envelope would always be maintained, and that its uncontrolled opening would be a disaster for the cell.


But you found that wasn’t the case?

We showed that, in fact, opening of the nuclear envelope happens very frequently in our cells, as soon as the nucleus deforms, which happens when cells move in the body. This movement of cells is instrumental during development of organisms but also during all their life.

Do you see that as a problem?

Luckily, our cells are very well equipped to repair their nuclear envelope very efficiently. So in fact, this envelope should not be seen as a permanent barrier, but as a fragile frontier that is constantly broken and repaired. This discovery potentially illuminates the origin of several diseases caused by an increased fragility of the envelope or a defect in the repair mechanisms.