Many Diseases Linked To Mitochondrial Dysfunction

By Anne Dominguez , Jan 28, 2017 03:27 AM EST

Many diseases such as rare genetic disorders are linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. A group of scientists investigate the functions and basic processes inside mitochondria. They also found a potential method treating associated diseases through genetic applications.

Mitochondria are double membrane-bound organelle in eukaryotic organisms. They generate the cells' supplies of adenosine triphosphate which are used as source of chemical energy. Mitochondria also play part in cell growth. Researchers on mitochondria started as early as the 19th century, however, there are still a lot of unanswered question especially about its relation to various diseases.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki Institute of Biotechnology led by Director Howy Jacobs aim to understand how mitochondria maintain physiological homeostasis by interacting with other cellular components. They also seek to know mitochondrial dysfunction lead to pathological states. Mitochondria has long been connected to a group of diseases called mitochondrial diseases, which include various cardiovascular and neurological disorders such as autism and many cases of Parkinson's disease.

Jacobs explained that while it is worthwhile studying mitochondria to better understand cell evolution, it is also important to know how to correct mitochondrial malfunction using scientific intervention, cited Science Daily. He compared mitochondria to a car engine, but instead of burning car fuels, it uses food molecules to harvest energy used in cells. He added that similar to mitochondria, a malfunctioning engine creates toxic products and generates less energy.

He highlighted that the focus of their study is a so-called "back-up" systems from in the mitochondria of lower organisms. These back-up systems take over in cases when mitochondria are overloaded, damaged or poisoned to prevent malfunction. However, these systems were lost in humans and other complex due to evolution.

The researchers transplanted the back-up systems from mitochondria of lower organisms to human cells to protect it from pathological stresses, thus potentially protecting it from diseases linked to mitochondria. "This could have medical applications even within the next decade. But part of our work is still focused on very basic processes inside mitochondria. And there are always new surprises, sometimes relating to topics that have been neglected or have been impossible to study until the right tools became available," Jacobs said according to University of Helsinki.

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