Misbehaving mitochondria may contribute to conditions such as autism

Mitochondria fragment and fuse to meet the energetic needs of the cell. Research shows that poorly regulated mitochondrial dynamics contribute to conditions such as autism.

Natalya Ortolano, PhD Headshot
Jun 28, 2022
Natalya Ortolano, PhD

Natalya received her PhD in from Vanderbilt University in 2021; she joined the DDN team the same week she defended her thesis. Her work has been featured at STAT News,...

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Mitochondria are important organelles because they produce most of the cell’s energy. They are not just static though. In fact, they modify their morphology to meet the energy needs of the cell. 

When energy needs are high, mitochondria fuse to form large networks for ATP production. When energy needs are low, the mitochondria fragment and the cell begins glycolysis. 

Mutations affecting this dynamic process can lead to different conditions and disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism have overenergetic mitochondria. 

Researchers have found a correlation between highly fused mitochondria and more severe symptoms in individuals with autism. Defining the connection between mitochondrial morphology and function could not only help develop better treatments for patients with autism, but provide a new diagnostic marker for symptom severity.

Check out this infographic and article to learn more about mitochondrial dynamics and their role in autism.

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