Mitochondria are the organelles inside cells that produce energy. Representing approximately 10% of total body weight, mitochondria have a number of roles in the body. Primarily, they are cellular “energy process factories” responsible for supplying greater than 95% of the body’s energy needs. Mitochondria are found in all of our cells, but are especially abundant the brain, skeletal muscle, heart, liver, and kidney.
As biochemical processing units, the mitochondria within each of our cells utilize carbohydrates and fat which are then converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism. The primary function of mitochondria is to produce ATP. The more ATP we have available, the more efficient our cellular metabolism will be, and consequently the aging process slows.
Mitochondrial biogenesis is the process by which new mitochondria are formed in the cell. Mitochondrial biogenesis is activated by numerous different signals during times of cellular stress or in response to environmental stimuli. It is critical that new mitochondria are generated if we are to protect against age-related decline, since it is believed to delay the effects of aging and the onset of age-associated diseases.
The master regulators of mitochondrial biogenesis appear to be the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PGC) family of transcriptional coactivators, including PGC-1α, PGC-1β, and the PGC-related coactivator, PRC. PGC-1α, in particular, is thought to be a master regulator.
Aerobic exercise and caloric restriction are the primary activators of the “master regulator” of mitochondrial biogenesis, PGC-1α.
Other biochemical substances that have been studied and research to be activators of the master regulator, PGC-1α to convey their signals to induce mitochondrial biogenesis include:
- 5′ adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK)
- Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK)
- Calcium-activated enzyme calcineurin
- Nitric Oxide (NO)
- Silent Information Regulator of Transcription 1 (SIRT1)
There exists natural and nutritional compounds that may stimulate the pathways that lead to mitochondrial biogenesis. These compounds are directed towards the primary biochemical targets required for mitochondrial biogenesis.
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