Introduction: Mitochondria, the Cell Furnaces
In the motion picture “The Phantom Menace”, the Star Wars episode that caused so much controversy for fans of the series, Qui-Gon Jinn describes the source of the Jedi Force to Anakin Skywalker. “Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll hear them speaking to you…”. The Star Wars lore suggests that midi-chlorians are intelligent microscopic life forms that live symbiotically inside the cells of all living things, with higher numbers present in individuals with the ability to feel the Force. Does this sound familiar? Yes, it is a crude description of mitochondria, the former symbiotic bacteria that are now the cell powerhouses, among other critical roles in cell metabolism, calcium and redox signaling, and regulation of cell death processes. With multiple shapes and forms, mitochondria are an amazingly complex organelle, which never ceases to surprise the researchers with new and important functions in the context of cell metabolism. Moreover, the idea that mitochondria are an attractive drug target has been gaining traction in the last years, with two molecules claimed to target mitochondria already in the market.
KeywordsMitochondria Furnace Disease Therapy Metabolism
We are extremely thankfully to Alexandra Holy, MBA/MPP, Mills College, Oakland, CA, USA for proofreading English language in this text.Work in the author’s laboratory is funded by FEDER funds through the Operational Programme Competitiveness Factors—COMPETE and national funds by FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology under research grants PTDC/DTP-FTO/2433/2014, POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016659, and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007440.
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