Thomas Jefferson University Research Magazine



Mitochondria are specialized structures that exist in all cells except red blood cells. Generally known as the cell’s energy factory, mitochondria play a much broader role: from helping in the processes of making hemoglobin, detoxifying ammonia in the liver, metabolizing cholesterol and neurotransmitters and synthesizing estrogen and testosterone. Each year, thousands of children (and, increasingly, adults) are diagnosed with genetic mitochondrial conditions that range from skeletal muscle weakness and exercise intolerance to neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease and liver failure. In addition, mitochondria are increasingly recognized as playing a role in the pathology of diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

MitoCare comprises five core research teams, plus an array of associated multidisciplinary teams whose research crosses into mitochondrial biology. The team led by MitoCare director Gyorgy Hajnoczky, MD, PhD, the Raphael Rubin, MD, Professor of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, was among the first to visualize mitochondrial energy metabolism and ion transport in single live cells. This work helped to elucidate fundamental signaling mechanisms that coordinate mitochondrial action with broader cellular function. His team has also been developing live cell imaging capacity that allows bioscientists from many disciplines to study intracellular processes.