What are mitochondria?

To survive, the human body needs energy. This is obtained from the food and then passes through the blood into the cells. However, to be used or stored there, it first has to be "burned" - much like petrol in an engine. This is the task of the mitochondria, which are therefore also called power plants of the body.

Mitochondria - structure

Mitochondria are special small cell organs that are present in every cell - especially common in muscle, nerve, sensory and oocytes. A mitochondrion is usually bean-shaped, but sometimes also round. It consists of an inner and an outer membrane.

While the outer membrane envelops the organelle like a shell, the inner membrane is folded and fanned. Between these folds is the liquid mitochondrial matrix. The contained protein complexes of the respiratory chain are responsible for the actual energy production.

In addition, the matrix has its own genome, the circular DNA of the mitochondrion, as well as ribosomes. The mitochondrial genome accounts for about one percent of human genetic information. Therefore, defective mitochondria can cause about 50 different diseases (mitochondriopathies).

Mitochondria function

Mitochondria are formed by bacteria-like division of themselves. Food that is absorbed into the body is first digested and then absorbed into the blood. There it is in turn distributed to the cells, where it is converted into storage energy by cellular respiration or oxidation.

Because the chemical functions of the respiratory chain take place in the mitochondria, the released energy is transformed there, stored in a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and can thus be used at any time. Once the mitochondria are exhausted, they are broken down by the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi apparatus and the lysosomes.

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