Exploring the Power Station of the Cell
Almost all of the fuel that drives life is generated through the combustion of sugar and fat within the mitochondria, often referred to as the “energy powerhouse” of the cell. As with other furnaces, this combustion process results in cellular smoke in the form of reactive chemicals that can damage surrounding lipids and proteins. The inability of mitochondria to remove damaged proteins and lipids can lead to cellular degeneration and is linked to the development of degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s and more rare diseases.
Cell biologists have recently discovered that mitochondria act together as an interconnected network, fusing together and breaking apart in an unexpectedly dynamic and orchestrated way. Dr. Heidi McBride, Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial Cell Biology, is playing an important role in uncovering additional insights into how mitochondria behave within cells and how their activity is controlled.
McBride is focusing on expanding basic understanding of mitochondria behaviour and on applying her findings to neurodegenerative and heart disease, metabolic syndromes (disorders that increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes) and cancer.
She is working to manipulate mitochondrial behavior in certain diseases and to determine whether some diseases can be prevented or even cured with the identification of new treatment targets.
McBride’s work will lead to increased understanding of the cell’s power producers and could lead to new treatments that target several degenerative brain diseases.