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Power Cut
07 February 2018

Power Cut

There are tiny power stations inside millions of our cells. Mitochondria release energy used to fuel life – everything from building new cells to powering heartbeats – so faults can create huge problems. In the two slices of heart tissue on the left, mitochondria appear like flat black blobs. Using a technique called 3D electron tomography, researchers extracted their shapes into brightly-coloured 3D computer models (right). The heart on the bottom row is overloaded with fat molecules called lipids – its mangled mitochondria cannot release energy as efficiently as the healthy heart at the top. This may answer a big question about heart disease. The hearts of those suffering from diabetes or obesity often contain more fatty molecules. The effect of lipotoxicity on mitochondria may crush the heart’s energy supply, increasing the risk of heart failure. Future treatments may aim to stop fats attacking our tiny powerhouses.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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