Links to Other Diseases
Mitochondrial defects are a central factor in human health and disease
Mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of a surprising
range of very common illnesses and conditions, and a promising new
avenue for their treatment. As the mitochondria are responsible for
producing energy, any illness that has an energy problem could be
related to the mitochondria. Diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction
have been implicated include:
- Alzheimer’s Dementia, Parkinson’s disease,
Huntington Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), mental
retardation, deafness and blindness, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular
disease and stroke. Over 50 million people in the US suffer from these
chronic degenerative disorders. While it cannot yet be said that
mitochondrial defects cause these problems, it is clear that
mitochondria are involved because their function is measurably
- Even autoimmune diseases such as multiple
sclerosis, Sjogrens syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis appear to
have a mitochondrial basis to illness.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated
with a wide range of solid tumors, proposed to be central to the aging
process, and found to be a common factor in the toxicity of a variety of
physical and chemical agents.
Highlights in Research
Until recently, the broad range of diseases that may be
caused by mitochondrial dysfunction was not well understood or
appreciated. A relationship between mitochondrial dysfunction and a wide
range of disease states was known to exist, but whether mitochondrial
dysfunction was responsible for the particular disease was still in
question. This changed with the discovery that mutations of the
mitochondrial DNA could cause certain diseases. For the first time,
scientists showed that a single nucleotide change in mitochondrial DNA
of a mouse led to the development of muscle weakness and progressive
Research supporting the link between mitochondrial dysfunction and some of these other common illnesses includes:
- Mitochondrial coenzyme Q10 levels are reduced in
patients with Parkinson’s disease and mitochondrial function in these
patients is impaired.
- Results of the first placebo-controlled
clinical trial of the compound coenzyme Q10 suggest that it can slow
disease progression in patients with early-stage Parkinson’s disease.
- These findings are consistent with another
recent study involving patients with early onset Huntington’s disease.
These patients showed slightly less functional decline in groups
- Investigators believe coQ10 works by improving the function of the mitochondria.
- A drug once approved as an antihistamine in
Russia improved thinking processes and the ability to function in
Alzheimer’s disease patients. The drug works by stabilizing
- Cancers are also associated with defects in the
mitochondria. Within the cell, signaling must occur between the
mitochondria and the nucleus. When the signaling malfunctions, the
defect can cause cancer.
- Researchers discovered that mutations in the
mitochondrial DNA may play a role in tumor metastasis and suggests a
possible new avenue for the development of a treatment to suppress
- Researchers have found a very consistent decline in mitochondrial function that is found in diabetes and pre-diabetes.
- There is increasing interest in the possibility
that mitochondrial dysfunction might play an important role in the
etiology of autism. A subset of autistic children have already been
shown to manifest biochemical alterations that are commonly associated
with mitochondrial disorders, and a few have been linked to specific
alterations in the mitochondrial genes.
It is clear that research into mitochondrial disease offers
hope to the millions who are afflicted with these other common
conditions and diseases.