Mitochondria – tiny, free-floating organelles inside cells – have long been defined by their ability to convert nutrients from food into energy. Likewise, many scientists have assumed that diseases linked mitochondrial dysfunction – including neurodegeneration, cancer and diabetes – occur when mitochondria can’t properly supply energy, which they do by making a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Now, a new Northwestern Medicine study led by Navdeep Chandel, PhD, challenges the common understanding that energy production is mitochondria’s most important function by deciphering the organelles’ other responsibilities. The findings were published in Molecular Cell. Postdoctoral fellow Inma Reyes, PhD, was the paper’s first author.