The New York Academy of Sciences
The Role of Mitochondria in Complex Diseases
Posted June 02, 2020
The canonical role of mitochondria is to function as the key regulator of cellular energy metabolism. However, mitochondria also play wider roles in cellular signaling, differentiation, cell death, regulation of the cell cycle and cell growth, in reactive oxygen species generation, and regulation of the epigenome. Dysregulation of these processes contribute to the aging process and play key roles in pathologies such as cancer, neurodegeneration, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases, and cardiovascular disease. While there have been advances in our understanding of basic mitochondrial biology and how the organelle regulates diverse cellular processes in recent years, the full implications of mitochondrial damage and dysfunction on human health and longevity are unknown.
The New York Academy of Sciences’ conference Mitochondria in Complex Diseases, held virtually on April 21, 2020, shed light on the impact of these cellular powerhouses in physiology and medicine. Speakers explored new advances in the basic biology of mitochondria, as well as the role of mitochondrial damage and dysfunction in cardiovascular disease, immunology, regenerative medicine, neurodegenerative disease, and aging.
“This meeting could not be timelier, as the globe deals with effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic," said scientific organizing committee member Douglas C. Wallace, PhD. "While it has been known for some time that viruses interact with certain aspects of mitochondrial function, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV2 have brought the importance of the mitochondria in viral pathogenesis into sharp focus," he continued. "Analysis of the recent characterization of interactions of SARS-CoV2 proteins with cellular proteins has revealed the striking extent to which the viral non-structural protein and open reading frame polypeptides directly interact with our mitochondria and the systems that communicate the mitochondrial bioenergetic status to the rest of the cell.”
In this eBriefing you will learn:
- New advances in mitochondrial disease mechanisms
- New concepts in the pathophysiology of human mitochondrial disease as well as therapeutic interventions
- How mitochondrial dysfunction plays a role in cardio metabolic disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer
- New therapeutic techniques for altering mitochondrial function
Ruth Slack, PhD
University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute
Dr. Ruth Slack is Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Vice-Dean at the University of Ottawa. Her research group’s long-term goals are to promote the regeneration of the damaged brain after stroke or in neurodegenerative diseases. She and her team have shown that proteins that regulate cell replication can also play important roles in the regulation of neural stem cell self-renewal and long term maintenance in the embryonic and adult brain. Dr. Slack’s group has also shown that mitochondrial dynamics and function have a major impact on adult stem cells and their differentiation, thus changes in metabolism or defects in mitochondrial function in the context of neurodegenerative diseases may have a major impact on neurogenesis, regeneration and neurological function. By exploiting new knowledge of these key regulatory pathways, they plan to activate the neuronal precursor and stem cell pools in order to facilitate regeneration of the damaged brain.