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The future of mitotherapy / horizontal transfer of mitochondria

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Here is something amazing:

Basically, cells in your body have been shown to give up their mitochondria, and transfer them to other cells! So, there's a way to transfer genetic material beyond the usual routes of reproduction and epigenetic effects.

They discuss how this could be used as a new type of therapy, called mitotherpy, where raw mitochondria are injected into the body, which are then absorbed by cells:

One tangible prospect emerges from Chinese researchers who have used mitotherapy to improve cognitive and motor performance in aged mice. Their results showed that the heterozygous mitochondrial DNA of both aged and young mice coexisted in several tissues shortly after intravenous injection of young mitos. It is interesting that the most susceptible population for Covid-19 are the elderly, precisely those with the highest probability of age-associated mitochondrial dysfunction. Furthermore, there have been a number of young people that have succumbed to Covid-19.

What if you got a blood transfusion or an organ transplant?... Are some of the mitochondria from the donor cells incorporated into all your other tissues?

Think about the prospects for anti-aging therapy: you could freeze some of your cells at a given age, or just produce stem cells from your body, to make young cells with young mitos; and then strip the cells, releasing the mitos; and inject them into your body. Would that slow aging?


Another thing I have wondered about is the transfer of conformal protein structure information. It is known that misfolded proteins ingested into your body can cause other proteins to misfold, resulting in "prion diseases" like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). What I wonder is whether there are benign transfers of protein structural information, through the food that you eat, for example.

I suppose we will have to wait and see whether this is ever discovered, probably by accident (like many discoveries in biology).

It seems there is still a lot we don't know -- and, therefore, a lot of potential therapies!




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After doing a little research, it looks like I was right about the last thing I wrote, regarding "beneficial transfer of protein structures" -- basically, beneficial prions.  Here's an article from 2016:

For the ultimate test, the researchers destroyed the DNA in the yeast cells carrying what they believed were prion-based traits, collected the remaining cell contents and introduced it into ordinary yeast cells. They found the traits were transmitted even though the cell’s DNA had been destroyed — indicating that proteins were transmitting the traits instead.

The researchers also found several human genes that would make proteins with similar characteristics. “These domains have been widely conserved across evolution, and several human homologs had the capacity to fuel protein-based inheritance,” they wrote in the study. “Our data thus establish a new and common type of protein-based molecular memory through which intrinsically disordered proteins can drive the emergence of new traits and adaptive opportunities.”

It's not completely clear to me if prions can be transmitted from mother to child, say, without there being "prion genes" to active it. But this seems to be saying that, at least within the body, prions are transmitted as cells divide -- you don't need DNA for the information to be passed on from one cell to the next.

As I was saying, it's probably true that there are certain kinds of prions that are beneficial, and that can be found in certain kinds of food. We just don't know what they are, yet.

Also, if you get a little of a person's body fluid inside your own body -- e.g. from a blood transfusion -- it's possible that some of their prions can covert the proteins in your body to that new pattern. Prion diseases can act relatively quickly (CJD kills within a few months), and only a small dose is needed to get the ball rolling.

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