Mitochondria in your blood

Mitochondria get a lot of airplay in this blog. (Here’s an early post.)

The mitochondrial experts of the world have been blown away by new research. It seems that our blood not only contains the various sorts of red and white cells, but it also contains nomadic mitochondria.

This is amazing! Here’s why.

No-one knew: It had never even been suspected that mitochondria could have a life outside a cell. They had always been regarded as an integral part of a cell. No-one every though that they could ditch the protection of the cell wall, and seek out a life for themselves as independent beings. How little we knew…

2019: Yes, this was first discovered only in 2019. Now this is astonishing, given how closely the contents of the blood have been studied over the last umpteen zillion years.

They are active: These nomadic free-range mitochondria aren’t cycling around in the blood as tourists seeking new parts of the body to visit. They still have the capacity to act as mitochondria do – to generate energy.

They can choose: Mitochondria have the ability to wander into a cell and out of a cell. What motivates them to move from cell to bloodstream and back isn’t known, but they must respond to some kind of signal from somewhere. Think of all the doctorates that will come out of this!

Indirect effect of red and near infrared light: Remember the indirect effect? It is sometimes called the abscopal or systemic effect. We know that when red and near infrared shines directly onto brain cells, there is an interaction with the cell mitochondria and all sorts of good things happen to make the neurone work better. But Prof John Mitrofanis and his team showed that if you shone light well away from the head, there was still an improvement in the way that the brain cells worked. They knew that it had to be something in the circulation, and had wondered if it was one or more of the immune cells. It still could be the immune cells, but almost certainly some of the indirect effect comes from the activity of those nomadic mitochondria.

First Aid and Parkinson’s: We know that using a light hat, whether DIY or Coronet, has a direct and indirect effect. We know that despite the red and infrared light not being able to penetrate right into the basal ganglia, still the dopamine-producing cells seem to function better. The existence of the circulating mitochondria gives a very good explanation for the mechanism of this indirect effect in people with Parkinson’s disease. Think of First Aid Attendants at a football match. One of the players has an injury, so First Aid Mitochondria hop over to the player and provide energy to sort out the injury. Once the injury is under control, First Aid Mitochondria dive back into the blood stream and look for some other game to attend. For someone with Parkinson’s, much of the injury is in the basal ganglia. The travelling mitochondria might just be doing a lot of first aid in that area.

Transcranial light makes the best use of all mitochondria: If you have Parkinson’s and you haven’t tried a light hat, then think seriously about it. You can DIY a Cossack from the instructions on this blog, or buy a Coronet.

Mitochondria need daily top-ups: Check the previous blog post about Al. He says it all.


Al Amir Dache Z, Otandault A, Tanos R, et al. Blood contains circulating cell‐free respiratory competent mitochondria. The FASEB Journal. 2020. doi:10.1096/fj.201901917RR

Johnstone DM, Mitrofanis J, Stone J. Targeting the body to protect the brain: inducing neuroprotection with remotely-applied near infrared light. Neural Regen Res. 2015;10(3):349-351. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.153673

Author: RedlightsontheBrain

Redlightsonthebrain is written by Catherine Hamilton, a retired doctor on behalf of Light Ahead Inc, a Tasmanian-based not-for-profit organisation. Light Ahead Inc aims to help people to learn about neurogenerative diseases and the practical, safe and scientifically-based things that may be able to help. Part of this is to provide low-cost access to red light devices, hence the DIY instructions on this blog. All sales of the Coronet red light device support the work of Light Ahead Inc.