Mitochondria are the cells' energy converters. We need them to transform nutrients into the energy we need to live. Mitochondria also produce damaging oxidants—free radical molecules produced by the metabolism of oxygen—that can wreak havoc on cells and their DNA. As the source of these toxic products, mitochondria are also their first potential victims. Their proximity to the free radicals they produce, combined with their exceedingly intricate structure, make them particularly vulnerable to injury over time. Not surprisingly, researchers are seeking to understand this injury as a critical part of the aging process, and perhaps a cause of a host of age-related diseases.



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Reviewer: Yih-Woei C. Fridell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Allied Health Sciences, University of Connecticut