Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Manipulating mitochondria with far red light to reveal effects of damage on neurons

06 June 2020

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Mitochondria are tiny biological power stations that supply our cells with a steady stream of usable energy. Diseases affecting mitochondria can have a huge effect on the health of power hungry muscle and nerve cells (neurons), among others. To understand how defunct mitochondria contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers looked to the zebrafish – a model organism whose genes can be modified in a lab. Here they alter mitochondrial genes in a zebrafish neuron (left) so that a blast of far-red light sets off a damaging chain reaction, leaving the mitochondria (highlighted in green) shrivelled compared to those in similar healthy cells (right). Controlling the amount of light yields more or less damage, giving researchers a useful tool for testing ways to treat these wounded organelles, with a view to fixing damage in human cells.

Written by John Ankers

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