Background NuMA is a protein that has been previously shown to play a role in focusing microtubules at the mitotic spindle poles. However, most previous work relies on experimental methods that might cause dominant side effects on spindle formation, such as microinjection of antibodies, overexpression of mutant protein, or immunodepletion of NuMA-containing protein complexes. Findings To circumvent these technical problems, we performed siRNA experiments in which we depleted the majority of NuMA in human cultured cells. Depleted mitotic cells show a prolonged duration of prometaphase, with spindle pole defects and with unattached, unaligned chromosomes. Conclusion Our data confirm that NuMA is important for spindle pole formation, and for cohesion of centrosome-derived microtubules with the bulk of spindle microtubules. Our findings of NuMA-dependent defects in chromosome alignment suggest that NuMA is involved in stabilizing kinetochore fibres.