Mitochondria Defect Linked To Heart Disease

A defect that leads to mitochondria burning more sugars than fats for energy may be to blame for dilated cardiomyopathy - a common form of heart disease. 

Your heart is obviously one of your most important organs, and its energy requirements match its responsibilities. Every day your heart must consume around 20 times its weight in ATP - the body's energy currency and beats more than 100,000 times. A fault in energy supply within the heart unsurprisingly can have knock on effects around the entire body. 

Energy supply depends on your cellular batteries

Your cardiomyocytes, or heart cells, run on their mitochondria. While many people consider glucose to be the primary fuel across the body, the heart actually consumes more fatty acids. These lipids are far more energy dense and are thus suited to the intense, un-relenting activity required.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy?

A common disease most prevalent in people between 40-50, in which the heart enlarges and loses its ability to properly contract. It usually leads to heart failure and subsequent death. Aside from transplants, there is currently no effective treatment. 

It is known that in patients with heart failure, their cardiomyocytes are consuming sugars over fats, but it was believed to be a defence mechanisms, not a driver of disease progression. New research now underlines the importance of a protein called YME1 , which controls the number and shape of mitochondria - and which energy source they preferably use. 

Switching sugars for fats

When researchers theorised this switch could be causing harm, they attempted to alleviate the problem with a dietary intervention. When they fed mice with the defect a high fat diet in an effort to force a switch, they were able to restore normal metabolism. Despite the defect in YME1, the dietary changes seemed enough to restore healthy function. 

"We know that a diet rich in fats is a threat to health because it increases the incidence of atherosclerosis. The possibility that such a diet might be beneficial in certain cases of heart disease is very provocative and attractive. However, much translational research needs to be done before these results can be considered definitive. Perhaps over the medium term we will be in a position to answer this question and perhaps eventually overthrow another established paradigm"

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