According to the Department of Microbiology at Cornell University, binary fission is the process where a cell grows to twice its original size and then splits into two identical cells. Binary fission is a method of asexual reproduction commonly used in prokaryotes and some unicellular eukaryotes.
For binary fission to occur, the original cell must make a copy of its DNA and put the DNA copies in the opposite end of the cell. The cell then elongates so that it is twice its original size. Proteins help drive the process of cell division. These proteins assemble at the site where the cell is going to divide. Division occurs, and the cell's cytoplasm is split in two. Bacteria that practice binary fission often produce a new cell wall in the two new cells.
Scientists study the process of binary fission to obtain new information that can help them create new chemicals or antibiotics that work by interfering with the process of binary fission. Many bacteria depend on binary fission to reproduce. Without reproduction, the bacteria will die.
A process known as multiple fission is similar to binary fission, but it produces more than two new cells at one time. It is often seen in protists, such as algae. The original cell's nucleus divides multiple times using mitosis to make many nuclei. The cytoplasm then separates, creating the new cells.