Mitochondria are organelles within cells which break down sugar to release energy. Their healthy functioning is key to health. Accumulation of damage in mitochondria is suspected to contribute to aging. In at least some cases Parkinson's Disease is thought to be caused by damaged mitochondria.
Boston, Mass. - Current thinking about Parkinson's disease is that it's a disorder of mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles inside cells, causing neurons in the brain's substantia nigra to die or become impaired. A study from Children's Hospital Boston now shows that genetic mutations causing a hereditary form of Parkinson's disease cause mitochondria to run amok inside the cell, leaving the cell without a brake to stop them. Findings appear in the November 11 issue of Cell.
Mitochondrial movement is often a good thing, especially in neurons, which need to get mitochondria to cells' periphery in order to fuel the axons and dendrites that send and receive signals. However, arresting this movement is equally important, says senior investigator Thomas Schwarz, PhD, of Children's F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center, since it allows mitochondria to be quarantined and destroyed when they go bad.
"Mitochondria, when damaged, produce reactive oxygen species that are highly destructive, and can fuse with healthy mitochondria and contaminate them, too," Schwarz says. "It's the equivalent of an environmental disaster in the cell."
Damaged mitochondria accumulate in us as we age. The ability to either repair or more reliably eject them would slow the aging process. Combined with other rejuvenation therapies treatments aimed at ridding us of damaged mitochondria will eventually enable us to reverse aging.
To the extent that Parkinson's is caused by damaged mitochondria that's actually good news for the rest of us who do not have Parkinson's. Why? Because Parkinson's provides motives for medical researchers to develop therapies targeting destruction or repair of toxic damaged mitochondria. Such therapies will be beneficial the rest of us. So future treatments developed to fix the root cause of Parkinson's will also help those without Parkinson's.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 November 10 10:11 PM Brain Aging|