Mitochondria have a social-life!

The discoveries about mitochondria continue to grow.

A while back, it became clear that many neurodegenerative diseases, especially Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, resulted from the cell batteries, the mitochondria, failing to properly power up the cell. This results in the cell being unable to do its job, for example making dopamine. It also results in the early death of the cell.

In 2019 came the stunning news that mitochondria are nomadic. They pop out of cells, plunge into the bloodstream and whizz around, then get out, metaphorically towel themselves dry and pop back into a different cell – possibly in a completely different part of the body.

This ability raised the question of what controls the mitochondrial migration. There must be some signalling system making this happen. One has visions of King Mito barking out orders to mitochondrial minions, who scurry around with their clipboards and spreadsheets…

The signalling system is the next big thing for scientists to understand. It offers vast opportunities for potential treatments and prevention strategies.

Now comes the news that mitochondria act like social creatures. The cosy up to each other, fuse together, split apart, and appear to communicate with each other. Absolutely fascinating!

Here’s a link to a wonderful article in Qantamagazine. It describes very beautifully the implication of a review paper by Martin Picard and Carmen Sandi, who were the first to describe this new feature of mitochondrial behaviour.

Reference:

Martin Picard, Carmen Sandi,The social nature of mitochondria: Implications for human health,
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 120,
2021,Pages 595-610,ISSN 0149-7634,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.04.017.

Exercise and sleep in Parkinson’s

Hot off the research press is a journal article with a self-explanatory title: Effects of exercise on sleep in neurodegenerative disease.

It starts by summarising the main things that affect sleep in people with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases as being:

  1. damage to the sleep-wake system in the brain, that affects the circadian rhythm and disrupts normal sleeping and waking patterns; and
  2. “secondary mechanisms” which include a raft of things like medication side effects, having to get up to the toilet during the night, poor sleep “hygiene”, sleep-related breathing disorders, and the environment in which you try to sleep.
Continue reading “Exercise and sleep in Parkinson’s”

Magnificent mitochondria

Thomas Ryan and David Tumbarello, two British researchers, published a very interesting two-page review article due to be published in September 2021, but made available early.

It seems that mitochondria, the batteries in our cells, aren’t merely being driven by other, more high-status, parts of the cell. It looks like the mitochondria themselves might be in the driver’s seat, at least for some aspects of their activity. We should take more notice of them.

Continue reading “Magnificent mitochondria”