Scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) have found evidence that liver mitochondria in mice adapt to become better metabolizers of alcohol and increase in number after chronic exposure, which may raise the potential for free radical damage associated with aging and cancer over time.
The liver is a vital organ, playing a major role in metabolism and detoxification in the body. Overconsumption of alcohol has long been tied to liver diseases such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, but how the substance damages the organ is not fully understood. USC research published in the Dec. 7, 2012, issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, suggests that mitochondria play an important role in the liver's response to the metabolic stress caused by alcohol intake. If scientists observe the same results in human mitochondria, it could help pinpoint targets for therapy.
"The liver has to adapt quickly to various toxins and drugs to meet the demands we place on the body," said Derick Han, Ph.D., assistant professor of research medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and first author of the study. "We've found that mitochondrial plasticity — the mitochondria's ability to change — is probably central to the liver's response to alcohol intake. This gives us a better understanding of how the liver works and how it adapts to stress."
Mitochondria are cellular organelles that generate most of the cell's energy; they have been implicated in certain neurological disorders and have been tied to aging. The metabolism of oxygen by the mitochondria normally generates reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, which in excess can be highly damaging to cells.
"In the short term, it looks like mitochondria adapt to metabolize alcohol better, but as they increase in number and use more oxygen to help metabolize that alcohol, it could be harmful to the body," Han said.
Han and his team of scientists fed alcohol to mice over four weeks, isolated the liver mitochondria and measured levels of respiration and changes in the mitochondrial structure. They found significant increases in oxygen consumption by mice fed the alcohol in comparison to control mitochondria as early as one week after feeding. Changes were greater and more extensive with higher alcohol intake.
University of Southern California - Health Sciences: http://uscnews.usc.edu/archives/health/
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Surgeons in Australia say they have performed the first heart transplant using a "dead heart".
Ebola underlines the urgent need for a new way of responding to global epidemics, say Harvey Rubin and Nicholas Saidel
As researchers from Africa to China to America race to develop vaccines and treatments to fight Ebola, health experts are grappling with the economics of a disease that until this year had been off the drug industry's radar.
Is California's severe drought hurting the nutrient content of fruit? No, preliminary data on pomegranates suggest. The fruit may be smaller, but packed with more antioxidants, tests show.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to companies marketing products claimed to be cures for Ebola. One firm says it will drop such claims — but it's still selling the product.
Parents of baby with fatal mitochondrial disease say techniques being considered by select committee could prevent them having another seriously ill child
Ultrasound has been used to open the brain's protective sheath in people with aggressive brain tumours – to deliver chemo drugs directly to cancer cells
The World Health Organization says two vaccine candidates now undergoing small-scale tests of dosage and safety in people might be ready for broader deployment in Africa by early 2015.
Just because the Food and Drug Administration recalls a supplement because it contains dangerous substances, doesn't mean the product disappears from the market.
9 million new cases and 1.5 million deaths in 2013