Dysfunction in mitochondrial processes has been related to several pathologies. In these disorders, the cell suffers oxidative imbalance that is mostly due to defects in pyruvate metabolism, mitochondrial fatty acids oxidation, the citric acid cycle or electron transport by the mitochondrial respiratory chain. These metabolic alterations produce mitochondrial diseases that have been related to inherited syndromes, such as MERRF or MELAS.
The main affected organs are brain, skeletal muscle, kidney, heart and liver, because of the high energetic demand and the oxidative metabolism. Moreover, the relationship between mitochondrial dysfunction and neurodegenerative processes, such as Parkinson disease or Alzheimer disease, as well as ageing, has been shown. Because mitochondrias are the target of several xenobiotics, such as aspirin, AZT or alcohol consumption, mitochondrial impairment has also been proposed as a mechanism of toxicity. Most laboratory tests that are available in the diagnosis of mitochondrial illness are assayed in tissue biopsies and are usually difficult to interpret. Recently, it has been shown that non-invasive techniques, such as nuclear magnetic resonance or the 2-keto[1-(13)C]isocaproic acid breath test, may be useful to assess mitochondrial function.
This article attempts to show the laboratory approach to mitochondrial diseases, reviewing new techniques that could be of great value in the research of mitochondrial function, such as the 2-keto[1-(13)C]isocaproic breath test.
CITATION J Physiol Biochem. 2001 Sep;57(3):267-84
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