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
MAY 07, 2020
Cancer
MAY 07, 2020
Yet Another Cancer Linked Tyrosine Kinase
In a cell, there are tens of thousands of individual components. Each component has a specific activity or role that the ...
MAY 12, 2020
Cardiology
MAY 12, 2020
Beverages Sweetened with High-fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Reduced Renal Blood Flow
It is well-accepted that beverages with high sugar concentrations—such as high-fructose containing soda- —ar ...
MAY 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
MAY 21, 2020
Taking the Guesswork out of Fat Consumption
  When it comes to healthy eating, we often receive mixed messages. Low fat diets that have been popularized for de ...
MAY 21, 2020
Cancer
MAY 21, 2020
A New Player in the Regulation of Cancer's Microenvironment
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world.  Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a sub-type o ...
MAY 24, 2020
Technology
MAY 24, 2020
New Type of Laser for Biomedical Applications
Researchers have discovered a new type of laser developed to give high amounts of energy in very short duration. The app ...
MAY 30, 2020
Cancer
MAY 30, 2020
Linking an Aggressive Tumor Factor to the Innate Immune Response
Epithelial Ovarian Cancer (EOC) is a cancer of the fallopian tubes with a low five-year survival rate with a tendency to ...
Loading Comments...