Amanda Natanek is a Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London and a Consultant Physician at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust. She is raising awareness of the clinical relevance of mitochondrial function and the oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle in conditions associated with ageing, by holding the first international symposium on this topic next month.
Mitochondria are fascinating organelles. Thought to have originated as aerobic bacteria that became engulfed by primitive eukaryotic cells, they are the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell. By generating ATP efficiently through a chain of oxygen-requiring reactions, they fuel the multitude of active processes that keep the cell ticking over. When a cell’s time is up, mitochondria are triggers of cell death.
As we age, these little powerhouses start to fail. They become less efficient and disappear leaving a smaller pool. This is particularly evident in the skeletal muscle –the organ that keeps us mobile and is responsible for removing three-quarters of the sugar from the bloodstream to prevent diabetes. So as we age, there is less energy produced for muscle contraction, for rebuilding and turning over muscle to maintain muscle mass, for replacing damaged cellular components including mitochondria themselves, and there is more cell death, all leading to a downward spiral. The result for people as they age? Sarcopenia, diabetes, frailty, physical inactivity…and ultimately increased mortality.
So how do we keep these little powerhouses in the muscle healthy and happy? Exercise, exercise and more exercise is our answer currently, but we desperately need additional options. If we can understand how muscle mitochondria and muscle with a high oxidative capacity are produced and maintained, we have a hope of developing drugs that boost the effects of exercise and keep people moving, independent and free of metabolic disease in older age.
This is the topic of a symposium at Imperial College London on Friday 21 October 2016. International experts in muscle mitochondria and development and maintenance of oxidative muscle, are speaking on their newest work and on the relevance to diseases of the ageing population such as type 2 diabetes, COPD, and cardiac failure. It is a small meeting, the first of its kind, aimed at fostering discussion, networking and collaboration between interested clinical and basic scientists and industry experts. Sign up now before the places disappear and feel free to submit a poster of your work! For details and booking click HERE