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View the free Mitosis Study Guide.

What is Mitosis?

Mitosis is the process where cells divide to produce new cells. If you cut your hand, new cells are produced to heal the wound. These new cells are produced through this process of mitosis. Your body is continually producing new cells to replace old ones even in the absense of an accident like cutting your hand. New cells are also produced as you are growing. The cell has a very orderly process that is used to produce these new cells which we call mitosis. Almost all organisms (all eukaryotic organisms) produce new cells in this manner. Bacteria on the other hand (prokaryotic organisms) produce new cells through a different, relatively more simple mechanism called binary fission. So, eukaryotes (like us, other mammalls and plants to name a few) produce new cells by mitosis and prokaryotes (bacteria) produce new cells through binary fission. When discussing mitosis you may also hear about meiosis. The main difference between these two are the number of chromosomes that result in the cells that are produced. Mitosis produces 2 new cells with the full set of 46 chromosomes (diploid) while meiosis produces cells with half the number of chromosomes (23 chromosomes in the haploid set for humans). The cells produced through meiosis are called gametes and are are used for reproduction. Mitosis starts with a diploid cell (46 chromosomes) and ends with 2 diploid cells.

What are the stages of mitosis?

There are 4 main stages of mitosis (prophase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase). In prophase the chromosomes condense, the nuclear envelope breaks down, the centrioles move to opposite poles and the spindle fibers attach to the centromeres of each chromosome. The chromosomes are then pulled to the center of the cell (the metaphase plate or equatorial plane). Metaphase is defined as the stage when the centromeres of each chromosome are aligned on the equatorial plane. In anaphase the chromosomes are being pulled to opposite poles. The sister chromatids (copies of each chromosome) separate (disjoin) and then are each pulled to opposite poles (46 to each side). In telophase the spindle fibers dissociate, and the nuclear envelope reforms around each new set of chromosomes. This is followed by cytokinesis where the cell divides into 2 new cells- one around each set of chromsomes within a nucleus.

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Mitosis Study Guide

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