Mitochondrial power grids in muscle

Paul Ingraham

For decades, mitochondria have been described as the “power plants” of cells, and they are already fascinating and complex. (I’m particularly amazed by their role in unnecessary inflammation.) But we may need to update the simile: turns out mitochondria don’t just produce energy “like a power plant,” they also deliver it like a network of power lines. This phenomenon was identified in mouse muscles:

Researchers found that mitochondria in mouse muscles not only produce energy, but can quickly distribute it across the muscle cell through a grid-like network. The findings reveal a major mechanism for energy distribution in skeletal muscle cells, and could provide new insights into diseases linked to energy use in muscle.

What a wonderful example of how much we still have to learn about muscle tissue (and others too, I’m sure, but muscle seems to be particularly full of surprising puzzles). It seems likely that we probably can’t understand muscle pain properly if we have only just now discovered something so fundamental about muscle biology. Imagine trying to troubleshoot an electrical problem if you weren’t aware of a major feature of how power is generated and transmitted!

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