Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mitochondria findings may help beat wide range of disease


New findings explaining the complicated process by which the "energy substations" of human cells split apart and recombine may lay the groundwork for new treatment approaches to a wide range of diseases, including some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from The Johns Hopkins University’s Integrated Imaging Center; the University of California, Davis; and the California Institute of Technology collaborated on two new studies analyzing the mechanisms and proteins that underlie the fission-fusion cycle of the cellular powerplants, called mitochondria. Their findings were published in two recent issues of the journal Science.

"To understand the role that mitochondria play in both normal and aberrant cell biology, it is essential to first understand the fusion-fission process that occurs continuously in normal, healthy cells," said J. Michael McCaffery, a research scientist in the Johns Hopkins Department of Biology, director of the Integrated Imaging Center, and an author on both studies.

Mitochondria constantly split and recombine and as cells divide, they pass along to each "daughter" cell the full complement of mitochondria necessary for healthy cell physiology. Recent research suggests that when this process goes awry, healthy cells die, resulting in diseases ranging from optic atrophy (the most common inherited form of blindness), to Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (a disease in which nerves in the hands, feet and lower legs die off), to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (which arise from neurodegenerative cell death), and even to some types of cancer.

Until now, though, understanding of those diseases was greatly limited by a lack of knowledge about the mitochondrial fusion portion of the cycle. "Fusion of single membranes is a well-delineated process, involving well-known, well-studied proteins," McCaffery said. "However, the same cannot be said for mitochondrial fusion, in which the key sequence of events and facilitating proteins remain largely unknown."

The mitochondrial fusion process is challenging to understand because mitochondria are structurally very complex, double-membrane bound organelles. In order for separate mitochondria to fuse, two distinct, compositionally very different membranes must join. Understanding how mitochondria accomplish this while maintaining the integrity of their compartments and the appropriate segregation of membranes and proteins is a fundamental question that the researchers sought to answer.

McCaffery’s team helped tackle this question by studying isolated mitochondria that had been removed from cells, observing them in test tubes using both light and electron microscopy. This cell-free approach allowed researchers a first-ever glimpse into the sequence of events underlying outer and inner membrane fusion.

What they discovered -- that mitochondria removed from their host-cell environment were nonetheless able to fuse -- surprised them because it suggested that mitochondria contain within themselves all the proteins necessary for fusion. This stands in stark contrast to the process of single-membrane fusion, which requires many additional cellular proteins to carry out this important function.

"We observed two distinct stages, with the first involving outer membrane fusion yielding an intermediate structure of two conjoined mitochondria, followed by the subsequent fusion of the inner membranes giving rise to a single mitochondrion," McCaffery said. "Understanding the discrete molecular events that underlie dynamic mitochondrial behavior has the potential to reveal keen insights into the basic and essential cell-mitochondria relationship, leading to increased understanding of the aging process; and potential treatments and perhaps cures of those age-related scourges of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s."

Lisa DeNike | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>