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Which Is of More Importance, Our Human Genome or Our Mitochondrial Genome? You'd Be Surprised!

Our mitochondria are the fountainhead of our cellular energy but are not innate to our Homo sapien way of being. In fact, we can classify our mitochondrial population as exogenous bacterial ancestors living within our human cells.

In simple terms, our oldest ancestor managed to engulf, enslave and take ownership of what once was a primitive solo, a free-floating bacterium.

Endosymbiotic theory, supported by three critical pieces of undisputed evidence, suggests that our anaerobic nucleus-bearing past selves actively acquired the mitochondrion via phagocytosis.

And from this point on, nothing was the same. Together, we formed a mutually beneficial relationship that has lasted more than a billion years.

Our mitochondria are self-replicating organelles and contain a whole different genome, meaning they have their own set of DNA. This DNA can be described as a small circular chromosome likely to be a remnant of their ancient bacterial past.

It is of paramount importance that we have opulent mitochondria. Beyond the mitochondria's role in the production of adenosine triphosphate, it is also a key regulator of apoptotic cell death (programmed cell death).

But, just like our own DNA, mitochondrial DNA is not immune to the destructive abilities of a mutation, and mutant mitochondria can significantly enhance the probability of disease.

Arguably, a single mutation within your mitochondria can have a much greater catastrophic effect than a single mutation within your chromosome.

The brain accounts for 2% of the bodyweight but uses 1/5th of the energy supply. The brain is particularly vulnerable to mitochondrial damage, and research suggests that each neurone can have up to two million mitochondria. Frontier data suggests that these organelles could be key players in virtually every type of brain disorder.

If we were to discuss autism, we could say that there is a significant link between mitochondrial diseases and autism spectrum disorder. Actually, 30-50% of children with autism show signs of mitochondrial dysfunction, such as abnormal levels of certain byproducts generated by cellular respiration. Genetic differences in either mitochondrial DNA or in some of the thousand or so genes in the human genome known to influence mitochondrial function have been identified in individuals with autism.

Based on murine studies reported earlier in the year, specific mutations in mitochondrial DNA lead to autism-like traits in mice, including impaired social interactions, skittishness, and compulsive behaviour.

Additionally, evidence suggests that the amount of air pollution that children with autism are exposed to before birth alters how their mitochondria can produce ATP. It seems that zinc and toxic metals influence how well mitochondria and organelles function. Environmental exposures, especially early on in a child's life, maybe programming the mitochondria to have a different type of respiratory physiology.

Furthermore, in individuals with schizophrenia and depression, there seems to be mitochondrial dysfunction in how the sugars are metabolised to create energy.

Various brain-associated diseases have different pathophysiologies, but an underlying similarity consistently occurs - mitochondrial dysfunction. Neurodegeneration is correlated with an energy deficit caused by inefficient operation of the electron transport chain, activation of mitochondria-dependent apoptosis, and accumulation of reactive oxygen species. Thus, it seems that our mitochondria may be a sensitive risk factor for many mental illnesses.

So, the question is, if our mitochondria are the powerhouse to our entire Being, control how our cells undergo programmed death and are the organelles our brain relies on the they have a greater risk of causing us harm when gone awry than if our chromosomes become misshapen?

I guess that is up to you to decide. However, I would suggest rerouting a large percentage of your biohacking regimes to accommodate your mitochondrial health, as these tiny little guys seem to hold much power over us in one way or another.


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Hello there, I'm Jessica Alana.

By trade, I'm a biomedical scientist with a passion for holistic and natural healthcare.

My aim is to bridge the gap between alternative medicine and data-backed science and use this knowledge to help you self-heal and thrive.

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