A restricted-calorie diet, when started in early adulthood, seems to stymie a mitochondrial mishap that may contribute to muscle loss in aging adults, the researchers reported recently in the journal PLoS One.
In rats, the scientists found pockets of excess iron in muscle cell mitochondria, the tiny power plants found in every cell. The excess iron affects the chemistry inside the mitochondria, sparking the formation of harmful free radicals that can lead a mitochondrion straight to the emergency exit, said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., a UF professor of aging in the UF College of Medicine and the Institute on Aging.
Leeuwenburgh was the senior author of the study and of a related report published online this month in Aging Cell that details the damage done by excess iron in mitochondria.
"We become less efficient at an old age and we need to understand why this is," Leeuwenburgh said. "One thing, maybe, is the accumulation of redox-active metals in cells. If the mitochondria become unhappy or are ready to kick the bucket, they have proteins in the inner and outer membranes that they can open up and commit suicide. They're tricky beasts."
The suicidal mitochondria can damage the rest of the muscle cell, leading to cell death and perhaps to muscle wasting, a big problem for adults as they reach their mid-70s, Leeuwenburgh added.
"Muscle is critical for your overall well-being," Leeuwenburgh said. "As you walk, muscle functions partly as a pump to keep your blood going. Muscle is an incredible source of reserves."
The researchers found increasing amounts of iron in the muscle cells of aging rats fed a typical unrestricted diet. The older the rats got, the more iron accumulated in the mitochondria and the more damage was done to its RNA and DNA. Rats of the same ages that were kept on a calorie-restricted diet — about 60 percent of the food typically ingested — seemed to maintain more normal iron levels in mitochondria, the researchers reported.
"The novel thing here is that iron is accumulating in places it does not normally accumulate," said Mitch Knutson, Ph.D., a UF assistant professor of food science and human nutrition and a study co-author. "Such iron accumulation in muscle was quite unexpected. This may be of concern because more people are genetically predisposed to developing iron overload than we originally thought."
The problem occurs when metals such as iron accumulate in the mitochondria and react with oxygen. Iron can change the chemical structure of oxygen, triggering its metamorphosis into a free radical, an unstable atom that can upset the delicate balance inside the mitochondria. The result? Leeuwenburgh describes it sort of like internal rust.
"Not all free radicals are harmful," Leeuwenburgh said. "To just use antioxidants to neutralize all free radicals is a huge misconception because some radicals are helpful. You just need to try and target very specific free radicals that form in specific parts of the body."
Researchers don't know exactly what causes iron to accumulate in mitochondria in aging animals, but a breakdown in how iron is transported through cells could be one reason why, Leeuwenburgh said. Understanding how caloric restriction limits the problem in rats could help researchers better understand how to combat it, he added.
Russell T. Hepple, Ph.D., an associate professor of kinesiology and medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada, said the findings are another step forward in linking iron to muscle cell death, but there are more questions researchers must answer.
"They've shown that apoptosis (cell death) goes up in aging muscle but where does that happen?" Hepple asked. "There are more than muscle cells in muscle. (For example) in older adults there are inflammatory cells."
April Frawley Birdwell | EurekAlert!
Deep stimulation improves cognitive control by augmenting brain rhythms
04.04.2019 | Picower Institute at MIT
Black nanoparticles slow the growth of tumors
04.04.2019 | Technische Universität München
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.
Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...
Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna
A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences
18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences