Our bodies use up a certain amount of energy every day to carry out activities. Unlike cars that can’t run on empty tanks, our bodies do not need to be supplied externally with fuel to get going. In fact, our fuel is generated within our bodies, thanks to 1000-2000 mini workers in each cell in our bodies.
Mitochondria – the powerhouse
These workers, known as the mitochondria, form a strong powerhouse in our bodies that generate heaps of energy for our daily activities.
This energy is known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the fuel for our bodies. ATP is generated using complex machinery found in the mitochondria, and the energy powered the cells in our bodies.
Many illustrations depict mitochondria as a single, globular entity, but mitochondria generally exist as a network. The formation of this network is similar to a group of people holding hands, getting connected to one another.
The stability of this network allows the process of fusion and fission to be more efficient. The end result – highly efficient mitochondria powerhouse!
Let’s share the workload, shall we?
Mitochondrial fusion event generally occurs when there is too much workload on the mitochondria.
Imagine yourself as a single mitochondrion, and you are carrying a bag of rice that weighs 10 kg. Inevitably, your arms will become sore after a period (it could be a different story if you are Popeye)!
This is when you will get someone else to assist you with carrying the rice. Sharing the workload with another person is the smart thing to do than straining your arms and get injured!
The birthing of new mitochondria
These powerhouses get wear off, and they need new mitochondria. The fission process does this by “cutting” the mitochondria into two, allowing the creation of new mitochondria.
Another thing happening in the fission process is the sorting of mitochondria into “good” and “bad” categories. The “bad” mitochondria are the ones that have accumulated debris inside them, and they will be removed from the cell through a process called mitophagy (i.e. the death of mitochondria).
With great power, comes great responsibility
Being the powerhouse of our cells, the mitochondria ensure that we can live healthily without suffering from any disorder or disease.
If our powerhouse is damaged, there will be dire consequences to our well-being. Therefore, it is important for scientists to learn more about the potential of these mini workers in our cells!
Source: Youle RJ and van der Bliek AM. (2012) Mitochondrial Fission, Fusion, and Stress. Science 337(6098): 1062-1065.