The Role Of Mitochondria In Aging.

I find mitochondria fascinating! These little powerhouses inside every cell of our body are micro organisms or an organelles, that have their own DNA (mtDNA), RNA and ribosomes. Mitochondrial DNA is only inherited from our mother. This is because mitochondria are only found in the female “eggs” of sexually reproducing animals. In addition to the cellular energy production, biology scientists use mitochondrial genes to reconstruct patterns of evolution within and between species. This is due to high rate of mtDNA mutation. For example, mtDNA analysis has been used to identify an ancient maternal lineage from which modern man has evolved. Another interesting thing is that mitochondria needs oxygen to produce energy. Other energy conversion processes in the cell take place without oxygen. So mitochondria is thought to have evolved from bacteria that lived inside of other simple organisms in a symbiotic relationship, providing them with aerobic capacity. Through the process of evolution, these tiny organisms became incorporated into the cell, and their genes and cellular functions became integrated to form a single functioning cellular unit.

Because of mitochondrial mutations, mitochondrial dysfunction plays a key role in the development of almost all age-related diseases. Mitochondria produce energy in cells, so symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction or disease often involve degeneration or failure of tissue.There is even the Mitochondrial Theory of Aging, that suggests that accumulation of mutations in mitochondria contributes to the aging process.

  • Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a role in the initiation and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Damaged mitochondria of endothelial cells can cause atherosclerosis and and heart failure. The traditional contributing factors such as smoking, elevated LDL cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, obesity and high triglycerides are all cause damage to mitochondria.
  • Dysfunctional mitochondria contributes to the development and spread of cancer. Mitochondrial energy production declines with age, which is associated with the increased number of free radicals. These free radicals cause mitochondrial mutations, that interfere with a natural cell-removal process called apoptosis. Apoptosis is crucial for removing damaged cells, so when is doesn’t work it cause cell mutation and initiation of tumour growth.
  • Mitochondrial insufficiency and hereditary mitochondrial dysfunction promote type 2 diabetes.
  • Stem cells require healthy mitochondria to function.

The key to prevent the mitochondrial disease is to produce more mitochondria, i. e. mitochondrial biogenesis. The good news is that there are natural and easy ways of doing this, such as regular intense aerobic exercise and calorie restriction diet – yet another proof that exercise and diet are crucial for good health and longevity. While calorie restriction requires a lot of time and self-discipline and might be inconvenient for most “9-5 people”, exercise is a good and easy way of stimulating mitochondrial biogenesis.

There is also a supplement that has been proven to produce new mitochondria: PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) or “another CoQ10”. Here is the list of scientific studies that have been published on PQQ. There is also a pharmaceutical prescription drug called metformin, that increases mitochondrial biogenesis.

There are also supplements that support mitochondrial function, but not necessary stimulate its biogenesis. These are: CoQ10, l-carnitine, carnosine and lipoic acid.


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