What is Mitosis

New cells are made by cell division and mitosis is a type of cell division. Mitosis is the name given to the process by which the nucleus of a cell divides in such a way that each daughter cell receives an identical copy of its genetic material.

The genetic code or genetic material is contained within the chromosomes in the nucleus of a cell. Thus the process of mitosis produces two daughter cells with exactly the same number and type of chromosomes as were present in the parent cell.

 

The importance of mitosis

All of life stems from the ability of cells to reproduce themselves. It is the ability of cells to reproduce themselves that allows organisms to develop, grow, heal and live for as long as possible. The importance of mitosis is listed below:

 

Growth

The number of cells within an organism increases by mitosis and this is the basis of growth in multicellular organisms. The growth of a 3kg baby to a 30kg child is not due to the cells increasing in mass but due to the number of cells increasing due to mitosis.

 

Cell replacement

Cells are constantly dying and being replaced. Replacement of these cells and tissues is by mitosis.

 

Regeneration

Some animals are able to regenerate whole parts of their body i.e. arms in a starfish and tails in lizards. The production of these new cells involves mitosis. Similarly the healing process of a wound involves mitosis.

 

Genetic stability

Mitosis produces two cells which have the same number of chromosomes as the parent cell. These chromosomes are derived from the exact replication of the DNA from the parental chromosomes and so carry the same hereditary information in their genes. Thus, the daughter cells are genetically identical to the parent cell with no genetic variation introduced by the process of mitosis. This results in genetic stability within populations of cells produced from the same parent cell.

 

Asexual reproduction

Mitosis allows many species to undergo asexual reproduction. This is the production of new individuals of a species by one parent organism.