JUN 18, 2019 12:38 PM PDT

Mighty Multitasker, Mitochondria Do More Than Power The Cell

WRITTEN BY: Abbie Arce

We all remember the mighty mitochondria from high school biology. These cellular power-houses are best known for their role in energy production. Specifically, these bean-shaped organelles generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel required by muscles to produce movement. Biologists believed, for over a century, that this was their only function. This simplistic understanding of mitochondria’s role is now beginning to shift.

One finding revealed that a protein produced as a byproduct of energy production is crucial to the process of apoptosis. Programmed cell death is a normal part of growth, which depends on protein cytochrome c. An early study indicates that mitochondria might be able to trigger cell death by releasing cytochrome c into the surrounding cytoplasm. 

Recent studies have also observed the role of the organelles in signaling and regulatory functions. One of the mitochondria’s key roles is in controlling the development of pluripotent stem cells by defining their ultimate role. 

Mitochondria are also known for regularly changing shape. They do this through regular cycles of fusion, during which they combine; and fission, during which they split. A study published last year from the University of Ottawa in Canada has shown the relationship between this cellular shape-shifting and the development of new neurons.

The studies prompted research into mitochondria’s role in neural stem cells decision to self renew or differentiate. Researchers found that dysfunction of the mitochondria’s ability to combine and split was related to the development of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism, Alzheimer’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Interestingly, the induced dysfunction of mitochondrial shape-shifting in rats leads to a reduction in the number of new brain cells being produced. Over time, this leads to memory and learning impairments. Changes in shape and the release of proteins are not the only ways in which mitochondria communicate with the cell. More research is needed into the role mitochondria plays in cell differentiation to possibly aid in stem cell research and therapies. It is possible that these cellular powerhouses are much more mighty than previously thought.

 

Sources: CellKhan Academy

About the Author
  • Abbie is an AFAA certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with an interest in all things health-science. She has recently graduated with her BS in Applied Sport and Exercise Science from Barry University in Miami. Next, she intends to earn an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology.
You May Also Like
AUG 24, 2021
Plants & Animals
Flanged male orangutans experience more severe early life stress
AUG 24, 2021
Flanged male orangutans experience more severe early life stress
Linear enamel hypoplasia, or LEH, occurs when tooth enamel fails to develop correctly during growth. When the enamel sto ...
SEP 05, 2021
Microbiology
Gut Bacteria May Influence Infant Brain Development
SEP 05, 2021
Gut Bacteria May Influence Infant Brain Development
Our health is closely connected to the community of microbes we carry in our gut. For example, these microbes have a pow ...
SEP 07, 2021
Health & Medicine
Think you can pay back your sleep debt this weekend? Think again.
SEP 07, 2021
Think you can pay back your sleep debt this weekend? Think again.
Researchers find that even one night of sleep loss results in impaired functioning and well being.
SEP 08, 2021
Technology
Vaping Devices With Nicotine Increase the Frequency of Blood Clots
SEP 08, 2021
Vaping Devices With Nicotine Increase the Frequency of Blood Clots
The safety of e-cigarettes, or vaping devices, has been the topic of fierce debate recently. Some advocates suggest that ...
SEP 11, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
New NIH Consortium Aims to Understand the Impact of Genetic Variants
SEP 11, 2021
New NIH Consortium Aims to Understand the Impact of Genetic Variants
Scientists sequenced most of the human genome abut two decades ago. It took many years to complete the project because o ...
SEP 12, 2021
Coronavirus
Real-World, Post-Delta COVID-19 Vaccine Data & Potential Treatment
SEP 12, 2021
Real-World, Post-Delta COVID-19 Vaccine Data & Potential Treatment
New research may have identified a potential treatment or preventive medication for SARS-CoV-2 and other viral infection ...
Loading Comments...