Mitochondria are structures within cells often referred to as "power houses" because they generate most of cells' energy. Unlike other cell structures, they contain their own DNA -- separate from that enclosed in the nucleus -- in the form of two to 10 small, circular chromosomes that code for 37 genes necessary for mitochondrial function. There are 10 to thousands of mitochondria per cell, depending on a cell's energy needs. In the heart, there are 5,000 mitochondria per cell.
A team from Johns Hopkins analyzed the amount of mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) in blood samples of older individuals. After calculating how much mtDNA each sample contained relative to the amount of nuclear DNA, the team looked at measures of frailty and health status gathered on the studies' participants over time.
Subjects who met the criteria for frailty had 9% less mtDNA than nonfrail participants. And, when grouped by amount of mtDNA, white participants in the bottom one-fifth of the study population were 31% likely to be frail than participants in the top one-fifth. The researchers also analyzed the age at which participants died. In one of the studies, high levels of mtDNA corresponded to a median of 2.1 extra years of life compared to those with the lowest levels of mtDNA. The team found that those with mtDNA levels in the bottom one-fifth of the population were 47% more likely to die of any cause during the study period than were those in the top one-fifth.
Observing that: “Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number is associated with age and sex,” the study authors conclude that: Lower mtDNA copy number is also associated with prevalent frailty. mtDNA copy number is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality in a multiethnic population.”
What does all this mean? Well, by predicting the amount of mitochondrial DNA, we can predict who will be frail and who is more likely to die sooner. And pertaining to the heart, mitochondria are extremely important. The best way to preserve mitochondrial DNA is to supplement with CoEnzyme Q10, which increases the Nitrous Oxide available and protects the mitochondria.
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