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on video How Your Brain Makes Its Own Electricity

 



Your brain is arguably the hungriest organ in the body, consuming roughly 20 per cent of your energy each day.

Most of that energy is produced by tiny structures inside cells called mitochondria, which break down complex carbohydrates from our food into simple sugars.

“Considering the brain is made up of around 100 billion neurons, that gives you an idea of how much energy the brain uses and needs to survive, and the mitochondria are responsible for that,” says Dr Steven Zuryn from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute.

Intriguingly, much of what we know about mitochondria originated with the study of bacterial evolution.

Until around two billion years ago, mitochondria were separate organisms, much like bacteria. At some stage, an ancestor of our cells fused with one of them. After all this time, mitochondria still have their own genome. It's much smaller than our main genome, and encodes just 37 genes. But each mitochondrion has as many as 10 copies of its genome, and each cell contains hundreds to thousands of mitochondria. Consequently, changes in mitochondrial DNA can have a big effect on the body.

“We now know that there are more than 30 diseases caused by mitochondrial DNA mutations,” says Dr Zuryn. He wants to understand how mutations in mitochondrial DNA change in individual cells and throughout the entire body during a lifetime. His research is focused on understanding how these mutations are passed on, or prevented from being passed on, from one generation to the next.

Such explorations could provide insight into degenerative brain diseases, which have been linked with mitochondrial DNA mutations.


 



Your brain is arguably the hungriest organ in the body, consuming roughly 20 per cent of your energy each day.

Most of that energy is produced by tiny structures inside cells called mitochondria, which break down complex carbohydrates from our food into simple sugars.

“Considering the brain is made up of around 100 billion neurons, that gives you an idea of how much energy the brain uses and needs to survive, and the mitochondria are responsible for that,” says Dr Steven Zuryn from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute.

Intriguingly, much of what we know about mitochondria originated with the study of bacterial evolution.

Until around two billion years ago, mitochondria were separate organisms, much like bacteria. At some stage, an ancestor of our cells fused with one of them. After all this time, mitochondria still have their own genome. It's much smaller than our main genome, and encodes just 37 genes. But each mitochondrion has as many as 10 copies of its genome, and each cell contains hundreds to thousands of mitochondria. Consequently, changes in mitochondrial DNA can have a big effect on the body.

“We now know that there are more than 30 diseases caused by mitochondrial DNA mutations,” says Dr Zuryn. He wants to understand how mutations in mitochondrial DNA change in individual cells and throughout the entire body during a lifetime. His research is focused on understanding how these mutations are passed on, or prevented from being passed on, from one generation to the next.

Such explorations could provide insight into degenerative brain diseases, which have been linked with mitochondrial DNA mutations.


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