Our Aging MitochondriaFebruary 2011
By William Faloon
If you enter “mitochondria and aging” into the US Library of Medicine website, you’ll find over 351 scientific studies published in 2010.
The consensus among researchers is that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in the development of virtually all age-related diseases.1
Go back nearly four decades, however, and very little about mitochondria appeared in medical journals. When Life Extension® first introduced methods to enhance mitochondrial function, few physicians understood our rationale.
Today’s scientific data make it loud and clear that every aging person should take personal responsibility to ensure optimal mitochondrial function and structure. The good news is that nutrients used by Life Extension members to enhance mitochondrial performance have more scientific substantiation than ever.
While compounds like coenzyme Q10,2-6 carnitine,7-9 and lipoic acid10-14 support mitochondrial function, it is critical that new mitochondria are generated if we are to protect against age-related decline.
Mitochondrial biogenesis is the process of creating new mitochondria within cells. Our mitochondria can be regenerated in response to intense aerobic exercise,15 calorie restriction,16 and taking certain medications like metformin.17
In 2010, researchers at the University of California at Davis released a peer-reviewed publication showing that a natural compound called PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) promotes the formation of new mitochondria within cells.18
For the first time, humans are empowered with a natural agent to reverse the deadly decline in functional mitochondria that underlies degenerative disease and premature aging.
Healthy Mitochondria Essential for the Brain
About 95% of cellular energy is produced from structures in the cell called mitochondria. Unlike other cell components, mitochondria are able to divide within healthy cells.
Mitochondria are required for cellular energy production. Impaired mitochondrial metabolism is now recognized as an underlying factor of many diseases.
The initial interest in taking nutrients like L-carnitine and CoQ10 was to boost mitochondrial function in heart muscle cells. Overlooked was the large amount of energy required by neurons (brain cells) to carry out their specialized functions.
Studies published in 2010 (and earlier) corroborate the role of abnormal mitochondria dynamics with neuronal cell death19 and the onset of Alzheimer’s,20-23 Parkinson’s,24-26 Huntington’s,27-29 and other neurodegenerative disorders.
If you live to 80 years, there is a 30% chance you will develop Alzheimer’s dementia. Scientists have identified specific pathologic mechanisms that reveal the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in the initiation and progression of this hideous disease. These findings resulted in the authors of a 2010 report concluding:
“We suggest that mitochondrial protection and subsequent reduction of oxidative stress are important targets for prevention and long-term treatment of early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.”30
Mitochondria Dysfunction and Heart Failure
Damage to the mitochondria of endothelial cells is an underlying cause of atherosclerosis.31,32
Traditional risk factors for arterial disease such as smoking,33-36 obesity,37 high blood sugar,38,39 high cholesterol40 and high triglycerides41,42 are all linked to mitochondrial injury.
When a person suffers persistent coronary artery blockage, a severe weakening of cardiac muscle can occur that results in congestive heart failure.
A study published in 2010 looked at left ventricular heart muscle tissue in patients with end-stage heart failure and normal hearts. Compared to normal hearts, mitochondrial DNA was decreased by 40% in failing hearts. This was accompanied by reductions of 25-80% in mitochondrial DNA-encoded proteins of failing hearts. The doctors who conducted this study concluded:
“Mitochondrial biogenesis is severely impaired as evidenced by reduced mitochondrial DNA replication and depletion of mitochondrial DNA in the human failing heart…suggesting novel mechanisms for mitochondrial dysfunction in heart failure.”43
Nutrients that enhance mitochondrial function (like coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine)44-46 improve clinical and symptomatic indicators of congestive heart failure.
The ability of PQQ to promote mitochondrial biogenesis18 (formation of healthy new mitochondria) could lead to even greater improvements in cardiac output.
Dysfunctional Mitochondria Contribute to Human Cancers
In humans, it takes more than 20 years from exposure to a carcinogen before a solid tumor develops. Research published in 2010 explains the many intimate ways that dysfunctional mitochondria contribute to the development of cancer and its metastasis.47-55
Cancer is fundamentally connected to mitochondrial dysfunction. A decline in mitochondrial energy production with aging is associated with the generation of increased free radicals, which cause mitochondrial mutations.56 These mutations interfere with a normal cell-removal process known as apoptosis.57
A critical factor in protecting against cancer is the ability to eliminate damaged cells through apoptosis. Researchers are focusing on the huge energy-dependent processes required to eradicate faulty or abnormally growing cells. It turns out that dysfunctional mitochondria deny cells the ability to go through normal apoptotic removal processes, thus sowing the seeds for cancer initiation and progression.
In addition, mitochondria are the source for several apoptotic proteins58 that activate cell death in the quest to eliminate damaged cells.59,60
Mitochondrial dysfunction that occurs with aging plays a major influence on carcinogenesis.61 One recent study shows that mitochondrial dysfunction predicts progression of prostate cancer in patients treated with surgery.48
Exciting research findings indicate the potential of reversing mitochondrial senescence in non-tumor cells using mitochondrial-targeted antioxidants.62-69 The benefit is that restored healthy cells are less susceptible to tumor initiation, while cancer cells that have evolved are better controlled by tumor suppressor genes activated by functional mitochondrial cell-signaling.70-72
Mitochondria Insufficiency Promotes Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is often caused by overeating, but some people lose the ability to control glucose because of hereditary factors or physical inactivity.
A study looked at young, lean, sedentary children with insulin resistance whose parents had developed type 2 diabetes. Compared to similar children of non-diabetic parents, muscle biopsies showed that mitochondrial density was reduced by 38% in the offspring of diabetic parents.73
This study also showed that these insulin-resistant children exhibited increased amounts of fat content in their muscles, which also contributes to insulin resistance. These findings support the concept that hereditary mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to the development of insulin resistance and subsequent type 2 diabetes.
The encouraging aspect to this study is that those genetically predisposed to type 2 diabetes may be able to avert this calamity through either rigorous physical exercise and/or supplementation with PQQ, both of which have been shown to promote mitochondrial biogenesis.15,18 (Note that certain anti-diabetic drugs like metformin and thiazolidinediones also induce mitochondrial biogenesis through additional mechanisms.)17,74-76
Stem Cells Require Healthy Mitochondria
Our bodies possess remarkable ability for sustained tissue renewal throughout our lifetimes. This continuous self-renewal process is dependent on reservoirs of somatic stem cells.
A report published in 2010 describes how intact mitochondrial function is crucial for maintenance of stem cells. In response to mitochondrial impairment, there is an increase in damaging free radicals accompanied by stem cell compromise.77
Researchers have discovered that stem cell populations do not necessarily decline with advancing age, but instead lose their restorative potential.78 This functional stem cell decline is accompanied by organ malfunction and increased incidence of disease.
Mitochondrial dysfunction thus underlies a degenerative cycle that robs aging humans of the renewal benefits of their own stem cells.
The integration of mitochondria into the core “axis of aging” has led researchers to propose that improvements in mitochondrial health (along with other cellular modulations) could yield advanced therapeutic strategies designed to rejuvenate tissues of the aged.
How Mitochondrial Structure Deteriorates
Altered (glycated) proteins can bind to mitochondria and compromise their function.79,80
The accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria results in a vicious cycle whereby increased oxidative and glycation reactions disable more mitochondria, eventually leading to a cell’s demise.81 The mitochondria in cells of elderly people are mostly dysfunctional, whereas young individuals have virtually no mitochondrial damage.82,83
A fascinating report published in 2010 describes the lethal cascade that occurs as inactive mitochondria accumulate in cells and how carnosine, acetyl-L-carnitine, and resveratrol can protect against these longevity-shortening molecular interplays.84
The Mitochondria and Human Health Span
The aging of the American society is upon us with an accelerated impact on healthcare expenditures. Conventional medicine can affix band-aids to age-related disease, but fails to correct the major underlying cause of mitochondrial dysfunction and the severe shortage of healthy mitochondria within the cell.
A search of scientific articles using the terms “mitochondria and aging” going back to the year 1980 reveals the exponential increase in our understanding of the role this cell organelle plays in sustaining healthy life span.
The box below shows how many published papers discuss “mitochondria and aging” in the early 1980s compared to the last two years:
Life Extension members should be comforted in knowing that their use of nutrients to maintain mitochondrial integrity is being increasingly vindicated in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Mitochondrial biogenesis is a term used to describe the beneficial creation of new mitochondria. With the discovery of the unique properties by which PQQ promotes mitochondrial biogenesis, a missing link to the puzzle of degenerative aging has been uncovered. PQQ is available without the requirement of a prescription.
Life Extension Has No “Exit” Strategy
I hope you appreciate that as we move into our fourth decade, Life Extension has not changed its scientific mission or total service commitment to members.
The founders remain as dedicated today as they were in the 1970s to discovering validated scientific methods to forestall and reverse biological aging. While we use the year 1980 as our official starting date, the Life Extension Foundation received its tax-exempt status in 1978, and I set up the first Life Extension laboratory in 1977.
Contrast this to companies that buy and sell themselves over and over, with new owners seeking to extract every nickel of profit at the expense of product quality and customer service.
When you phone Life Extension, you never get a recording unless all of our representatives are busy assisting other members. We promise to not greet you with an automated menu that forces you to listen to endless taped messages and push many buttons before getting to talk to a live person.
We are sometimes approached by Wall Street investors who ask, “What is your exit strategy?” What they mean is when do you plan to “cash out” (by selling the organization to profit-hungry investors) and retire. My response is always the same: “When we achieve biological immortality, I may consider taking some time off.”
I can assure you there will never be an “exit” from our quest to achieve indefinite longevity.
Advanced Nutrient Formulas at Year’s Lowest Prices
Life Extension members take advantage of the annual Super Sale to acquire our most up-to-date nutrient formulations at extra discounted prices.
Virtually every year, we upgrade our formulas to provide even more effective health-sustaining nutrients.
Last year we introduced a ubiquinol CoQ10 product that provides significantly higher CoQ10 levels within the cell’s mitochondria.85 This year we introduce PQQ to promote the formation of new mitochondria. PQQ is available as a standalone product, or as a component of two novel mitochondrial support formulations.
In this month’s issue, you’ll learn about effective methods to maintain, protect, and improve vital mitochondrial function. The good news is that most of you have been taking proven mitochondrial-protecting nutrients for many years or decades. Members now have access to a compound (PQQ) that has been shown to induce formation of new mitochondria.
Every time you purchase a Life Extension product, you contribute to research aimed at extending healthy human life span. The Life Extension Foundation continues to fund a record number of scientific projects, while battling incompetent bureaucrats who seek to suffocate medical innovation.
During the traditional winter Super Sale, all Life Extension formulas are discounted so that members can obtain up-to-date versions at the lowest prices of the year.
Until January 31, 2011, members take advantage of Super Sale discounts to stock up on the world’s most cutting–edge life-extending formulas.
For longer life,
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