BY LINDA BAKER
Found in all cells, mitochondria are tube shape “organelles” that convert food into useful energy; when mitochondria fail, disease results. Now researchers at OHSU have found that an antioxidant targeting “mitochondrial dysfunction” can help alleviate symptoms in mice that have a multiple sclerosis-type disease. MS is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the myelin, a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Symptoms can include blurred vision, numbness and paralysis. Treated with the antioxidant — called MitoQ — afflicted mice showed reduced demyelination and inflammation of the neurons, says P. Hemachandra Reddy, an associate scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at OHSU’s Oregon National Primate Research Center. The antioxidant appears to work by entering neuronal cells quickly, then “scavenging” the free radicals that can damage cells — damage linked to numerous maladies. The next step is to understand exactly how MitoQ protects mitochondria within the brains of mice with the MS-type condition — and then conduct trials on humans. Although MitoQ was designed more than a dozen years ago, this is the first time it has been tested as an MS therapy. “This is a major breakthrough for MS patients,” says Reddy.