NOV 11, 2019 3:50 PM PST

Suicidal Mitochondria Responsible for ALS

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Scientists at Northwestern University have discovered a new mechanism in the brain that may be responsible for the early stages of neurodegeneration seen in conditions such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which affects voluntary muscle movement such as walking and being able to talk. 

A process that had never been observed before, the researchers involved coined it, “microautophagy”. It takes place in diseased upper motor neurons located in the brain and is caused by a collection of self-destructive mitochondria that begin to disintegrate from within at an early stage. Upper motor neurons are responsible for voluntary muscle movement and relaxation, and are typically among the first neurons to disintegrate from neurodegenerative conditions (Gautam: 2019). 

According to senior study author, Hande Ozdinler, “I think we have found the culprit that primes neurons to become vulnerable to future degeneration: suicidal mitochondria...The mitochondria basically eat themselves up very early in the disease. This occurs selectively in the neurons that will soon degenerate in patient’s brains (Samuelson: 2019).”

Via a process known as immuno-coupled electron microscopy, Ozdinler and her team studied the cellular events that occur in neurons that become vulnerable to ALS. After reviewing over 200 neurons, they found that self-destructing mitochondria only occurred in diseased neurons (Gautam: 2019). 

Although the study analyzed mice, Ozdinler and her team have previously demonstrated that the upper neurons across different species, including mice and humans, are practically identical at the cellular level, and especially within the context of this pathology, known as TDP-43(Gautam: 2019). 

From this research, Ozdinler and her team hope that these self-destructive mitochondria may become a target for future treatments for ALS and similar conditions. She said, “Many of the drugs currently on the market that target the health and the integrity of mitochondria may well be repurposed and considered for neurodegenerative diseases in the future...Maybe we don’t need to reinvent the wheel to cure ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

“To overcome neurodegeneration, we need to improve the health and the stability of mitochondria. If we improve the health of the mitochondria early, we may even eliminate protein aggregate formation, a pathology broadly observed in many diseases (Samuelson: 2019).”

 

Sources

 

Gautam, Mukesh et al: Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 

Samuleson, Kristin: Northwestern University

 

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
AUG 07, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis May Be Linked to Opioid Abuse
AUG 07, 2021
Cannabis May Be Linked to Opioid Abuse
Existing research suggests that people who use cannabis may be more likely than non-users to use and opioids and develop ...
AUG 10, 2021
Neuroscience
Is consciousness a quantum phenomenon?
AUG 10, 2021
Is consciousness a quantum phenomenon?
Researchers experiments with quantum fractals reveal promising direction for consciousness research
AUG 20, 2021
Technology
"Gamified" Digital Therapeutic Helps Reduce Anxiety
AUG 20, 2021
"Gamified" Digital Therapeutic Helps Reduce Anxiety
Who said games can’t be therapeutic? According to a recent study published in Frontiers in Neurology, a gamified d ...
AUG 25, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Possible Treatment Strategy for Familial Alzheimer's is ID'ed
AUG 25, 2021
A Possible Treatment Strategy for Familial Alzheimer's is ID'ed
Some cases of Alzheimers disease (AD) are known as Familial AD because they are due to genetic mutations. So far, mutati ...
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 14, 2021
Immunology
Extinguishing Fires in the Brains of MS Patients
SEP 14, 2021
Extinguishing Fires in the Brains of MS Patients
  A closer look at the brains of patients with aggressive, debilitating forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) reveals so ...
Loading Comments...