Principles and therapeutic relevance for targeting mitochondria in aging and neurodegenerative diseases

Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(20):2036-55. doi: 10.2174/138161211796904740.


Aging is a physiologic state in which a progressive decline of organ functions may be accompanied by developing age-related diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. The causes of such conditions remain unknown, being probably related to a multifactor process. To date, the Free Radical and Mitochondrial theories seem to be the two most prominent that could explain both how and why aged people develop certain disorders, providing a rationale for treatment. Several reports demonstrate that mitochondria play a key role in aging and some neurodegenerative diseases. Damaged mitochondria produce increased amounts of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), leading, in turn, to progressive augmentation in damage. Dysfunctional mitochondria enhance susceptibility to cell death. Indeed, at cell level mitochondria act as an energetic hub determining cell final fate through caspase-dependent apoptosis. Thus, if aging results from oxidative stress, it may be corrected by environmental, nutritional and pharmacological strategies. In this review we summarize the role of mitochondria dysfunction occurring in aging and neurodegenerative disease, describing novel mitochondria-targeted therapy approach and the new selective molecules and nanocarriers technology as potentially effective in targeting mitochondrial dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / drug effects
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / pathology*
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Nootropic Agents / metabolism
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Nootropic Agents