When an organ is failing, a transplant is often the answer. But the very thing that is often the cause of the failure could soon be a new answer: mitochondria.
Mitochondria take energy from the food we eat and feed it to cells to help them work. When mitochondria are damaged, it can cause serious problems.
“Mitochondrial dysfunction is a universal driver of disease,” says Keshav Singh, a mitochondria researcher at the University of Alabama Birmingham.
The key to healing this damage may be mitochondria from elsewhere in the body. Researchers have conducted trials that involve transplanting healthy mitochondria into the sick.
So far, this has been pretty successful in animal trials. A good portion of the few human heart and brain patients who have experimented with the procedure have healed themselves with their own mitochondria. Well, doctors helped, of course. Researchers are hopeful it can work in other organs, too.
There’s still a lot to figure out, but mitochondrial transplants could be the next big (life-saving) thing.