All living organisms consist of cells that have arisen from other living cells by the process of cell division. In order to ensure that the genetic material is equally and accurately distributed between the two daughter cells during cell division, the DNA fibers must remain in an orderly and closely-packed condition. At the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich, scientists have now elucidated how this packaging process works in bacteria. Their studies showed that the SMC protein complex holds DNA together like a clip and thus keeps the genetic material in order. Mistakes in the distribution of the chromosomes during cell division may cause cancer or genetic defects such as Trisomy 21. The findings have now been published in the journal eLIFE.