A large-scale analysis of the effects of almost 2,500 drugs and natural products on mitochondria -- the tiny structures that convert food to energy in every cell -- promises to become invaluable to scientists seeking new ways to tackle diabetes, neurodegeneration and even ageing. The resource, described online in Nature Biotechnology, will help to illuminate the role mitochondria in health and the consequences of their failure in disease.
Vamsi Mootha and colleagues monitored the effects of the chemicals on physiological responses and gene expression in mitochondria from mouse muscle cells. The collection can be used to find clues predicting both new uses and undesirable side effects for approved drugs. For instance, its analysis corroborates the idea that defective mitochondria might be responsible for muscle cramps associated with taking statins -- cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by nearly 100 million patients worldwide.
Another unanticipated insight involved a link between mitochondrial gene expression and the integrity of microtubules -- scaffolds that also act as highways to shuttle key molecules around the cell. The healing properties of a natural product used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diabetes may derive from its ability to disrupt microtubules.
Vamsi Mootha (Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Biotechnology press release.
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