Tonight after the fireworks I took myself off to a biosoc talk by Dr Nick Lane , with the very provocative title of Power, Sex, Suicide: the title of his latest book.The small print Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life was a better description.
The first part was way way over my head and I just marvelled at how he could rattle of all those long names. I have put a few of his slides on Flickr
The fundamental point is that mitochondria were once bacteria and that it was their entry into cells that made possible complex life. They are essential in converting Oxygen for cell respiration and that they retain their own DNA to maintain respiratory control or as another website says “Within each of your cells are many mitochondria, tiny biochemical power plants that convert chemicals from food to ATP, the basic fuel molecule used by your cells to provide energy for life” here it gets way above me in that free radicals alter ATP production.
He then went onto describe why sex is odd and requires 2 parents thus meaning you can only mate with 50% of the population (apparently Physarum Polycephalum has 13 sexes!) Also the oddity of how the female passes on mitochondria whilst the male mitochondria is eliminated from the sperm. Which is a good way of defining what sex you are apparently.
Also higher mitochondria density in your cells is a good indicator of longevity, birds have a density 2.5 higher in their wing muscles (flight is very energy intensive compared to running) and live correspondingly much longer lifes that animals of the same mass. So how can humans improve their mitochondria density:-
- Have mitochondrial DNA that exists in some of the Japanese population.
- A calorie restricted diet.
- Drink red wine.
- Use Viagra 🙂
Pretty fascinating stuff and a great lecturer. Pity that so few attended.