The Rise of Mitochondria in Medicine

Mitochondrion. 2016 Sep;30:105-16. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2016.07.003. Epub 2016 Jul 14.

Abstract

Once considered exclusively the cell's powerhouse, mitochondria are now recognized to perform multiple essential functions beyond energy production, impacting most areas of cell biology and medicine. Since the emergence of molecular biology and the discovery of pathogenic mitochondrial DNA defects in the 1980's, research advances have revealed a number of common human diseases which share an underlying pathogenesis involving mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria undergo function-defining dynamic shape changes, communicate with each other, regulate gene expression within the nucleus, modulate synaptic transmission within the brain, release molecules that contribute to oncogenic transformation and trigger inflammatory responses systemically, and influence the regulation of complex physiological systems. Novel mitopathogenic mechanisms are thus being uncovered across a number of medical disciplines including genetics, oncology, neurology, immunology, and critical care medicine. Increasing knowledge of the bioenergetic aspects of human disease has provided new opportunities for diagnosis, therapy, prevention, and in connecting various domains of medicine. In this article, we overview specific aspects of mitochondrial biology that have contributed to - and likely will continue to enhance the progress of modern medicine.

Keywords: Brain function; Gene expression; Immunity; Medical science; Mitochondria; Mitochondrial dynamics; Signaling; mtDNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Medicine / trends
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / pathology*
  • Mitochondrial Diseases / physiopathology*