Mitochondrial what now?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My coworker (Hi Tiff!), mentioned that she had learned about something called mitochondrial dysfunction in a recent Autism refresher course she attended. Ummm, if you are like me you sat there scratching your head, listening intently and then instantly went google crazy searching all things related to mitochondrial dysfunction related.

Part of what drew me to this job was the science behind it all. All the research, the discovery and watching kids blossom under all that SCIENCE! (nerd alert much?) This is why I was so curious about this thing I had never heard about!

I am not sure how much research there is about this disease, but from what I have read a few researchers have found that some children with mitochondrial dysfunction (MD) also have Autism. Specifically researchers have suggested that mitochondrial dysfunction may cause some of the symptoms we see in children with Autism (again limited research at this time regarding the Autism relation).

The Journal of Child Neurology found that a, "subgroup of patients with mitochondria disorders may be at increased risk for autistic regression, especially around periods of fever." However another study suggests that they actually improve behavior around a fever (but these children were not suspected to have mitochondrial dysfunction). We need more research though!

Another symptom they are finding that is related to ASD and mitochondrial dysfunction is low muscle tone and being easily fatigued by activity. Why?  Mitochondria are the power houses of our body (biology class coming back to y'all??) and provide with energy, so when they are in dysfunction we have a lack of energy. This can affect so many parts of a child's functioning!  Click the link to read about how many other diseases it can be part of or related to and all the parts of the body it can affect! Wow!

Validity? To me there is not enough research at the time regarding the prevalence of 1 in 110 children with mitochondrial dysfunction have Autism. However it is interesting to think about!  Research is being conducted to figure out what effectively treats symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction and how it may or may not be related to some children with ASD.

Can you all tell that I wanted to work in genetics when I grew up? All this stuff is so intriguing!

 Have you heard of mitochondrial dysfunction? Do you think it's a valid connection? Do you have any students who have both?

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