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Taking It to the Clinic: Using Mitochondria to Diagnose Disease

Asthma, Parkinson’s disease, muscle atrophy detection may be improved by cell powerhouse

San Diego (August 28, 2017)—Leading researchers will discuss advances in understanding the role of mitochondria in health and disease and the use of the “powerhouse of the cell” as a clinical diagnostic tool during the “Translating the Mitochondria—Taking It to the Clinic” symposium at the American Physiological Society’s Physiological Bioenergetics: Mitochondria from Bench to Bedside conference.

“Mitochondria are important to cellular function in every organ, and when mitochondria become dysfunctional, there are significant disease manifestations,” said symposium chair Roberta Gottlieb, MD, director of molecular cardiobiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. In this symposium, researchers “will address translational aspects of bioenergetics, including the use of circulating blood cells for bioenergetic monitoring of systemic disease and assessment of mitochondrial function to gain insights into human health and disease,” Gottlieb explained. Highlights of the symposium program include presentations by Bret Goodpaster, PhD, from Florida Hospital in Orlando, Fla., and Sruti Shiva, PhD, from the University of Pittsburgh.

Goodpaster’s presentation, “Muscle Bioenergetics in Exercise and Bed Rest,” will examine what happens to mitochondria during bed rest. His research team took muscle biopsies of older adult volunteers before restricting them to 10 days of complete bed rest. The trial simulated “approximately the same amount of muscle loss that occurs during eight years of normal aging,” Goodpaster wrote. A second muscle biopsy after bed rest showed that the genes associated with mitochondrial energy production and fatty acid metabolism were suppressed during long periods of inactivity. “Therefore, mitochondrial metabolism may be an important target for therapies to combat the loss of muscle mass that occurs with injury, immobilization or hospitalization,” Goodpaster noted.

Shiva will discuss using a minimally invasive blood test to examine mitochondrial changes as a marker for chronic health conditions in her talk, “Platelet Bioenergetics as a Biomarker for Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Human Disease.” Previously, studying known mitochondrial changes in chronic disease required a muscle biopsy. Shiva and her colleagues found that blood platelets show altered patterns in the flow of energy (bioenergetics) in the presences of diseases such as asthma, Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell disease and pulmonary hypertension. This new approach “is exciting because it suggests that perhaps we can use platelet bioenergetics as a measure for disease appearance or progression,” Shiva said.

The “Translating the Mitochondria—Taking It to the Clinic” symposium will be held Monday, August 28, from 2:15 to 4:45 p.m., in the U.S. Grant Hotel.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The Physiological Bioenergetics: Mitochondria from Bench to Bedside conference will be held in San Diego, August 27–30, 2017. Read the full program. To schedule an interview with the conference organizers or presenters, contact the APS Communications Office or call 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.