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.