It is known that mitochondria provide the energy to support life, it is
not precisely known how this works. The description below sounds an
awful lot like a fuel cell.
So many things in nature can be copied, it would seem we could learn to
scale up mitochondria to generate energy of sufficient power to do
useful work in the macro world we live in.
On http://www.keelynet.com for 12/03/05, notice the images which show
the use of folds that serve as inner and outer membranes, analogous to
STACKS in fuel cells!
12/03/05 - Mitochondria half as efficient in old age
Mitochondria are the cell's equivalent of power stations. A power
station burns fuel to build up steam pressure and uses that pressure to
drive a turbine linked to a dynamo. This in turn generates electricity.
In mitochondria, the fuel is oxidised and builds up a pressure of
hydrogen ions (protons). These force through molecular turbines and
enable the cell to generate ATP, an energy unit that can be used
throughout the cell.
Just as you can work out a power station's efficiency by seeing how much
electricity it produces for each unit of oxygen and fuel it burns, you
can assess the efficiency of mitochondria by monitoring the amount of
ATP produced for every unit of oxygen used.
Researchers from various departments of the University of Washington,
Seattle, compared resting muscle cells from young (7-month) and old
They found that old muscle used around half as much energy as young
muscle, but that the mitochondria used just as much oxygen at both ages.
This represents a 50% loss in efficiency.
"The best explanation for this loss of efficiency is that the
mitochondria become leaky as they get old. Protons leak back into the
mitochondria without making ATP, and so reduce the coupling between
oxygen use and ATP production," says lead author David Marcinek, who
works in the department of radiology.
This inefficiency means that elderly people's muscle produce less
useable energy (ATP) for every unit of oxygen consumed, making normal
activity seem more challenging and limiting their range of activities.
Jerry Decker - http://www.keelynet.com
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