A big thank you to everyone for helping us hit our goal so quickly! Please check out the campaign updates tab to learn about our stretch goals for hitting $45,000 and $60,000.
Each cell in the body is dependent on the efficient generation of cellular energy by mitochondria to stay alive. Critical to this process are genes encoded within the mitochondrial genome. Over time however, mutations in these genes occur as a result of constant exposure to reactive oxygen species produced by oxidative phosphorylation, the mitochondrial energy generation process. Unlike genes within the nucleus, mitochondria lack an efficient system to repair damaged DNA. This leads to accumulated mutations, resulting in mitochondrial defects and an increase in oxidative stress throughout the body. Closely correlated with this is the observation that organisms which age more slowly also consistently display lower rates of mitochondrial free radical damage. Thus, reversing and/or preventing damage to mitochondrial DNA may be a key factor in slowing the aging process.
At the SENS Research Foundation, we are in the early stages of creating an innovative system to repair these mitochondrial mutations. If this project is successful we will have demonstrated, for the first time, a mechanism that can provide your cells with a modified backup copy of the entire mitochondrial genome. This genome would then reside within the protective confines of the cell’s nucleus, thereby mitigating damage to the mitochondrial genome. In fact, during the long course of evolution, this gradual transfer of genetic information into the nucleus has already occurred with the majority of mitochondrial genome, leaving behind a mere 13 protein coding genes within the mitochondria. Demonstrating the effectiveness of this technology would be a major milestone in the prevention and reversal of aging in the human body.
Edward James Olmos describes the SENS Mitochondrial Repair Plan
We are also developing a unique method for guiding the products of these nuclear encoded mitochondrial genes back into the mitochondria, where they can then properly function. Over the last decade, engineering this last step has been the major bottleneck in achieving effective results. In our novel system, the mRNA from an engineered mitochondrial gene is guided back to the mitochondrial surface, where it is then translated into a protein by the organelle’s co-translational import system (see figure below). Once imported, it is then incorporated into the correct location within the inner mitochondrial membrane.
Our precise targeting is achieved by adding a specific sequence “tag” to both ends of the mRNA. These tags then serve to guide the information containing mRNA molecule to the mitochondrial surface. Our prior research indicates that our system of tagging yields a significantly higher efficiency of import to mitochondria than any previously published research.
Successfully completing this project will mean that we have developed a groundbreaking method that will provide us with the capability to safeguard the mitochondrial genome by creating a backup copy in the nuclear genome. The overall goal will be to test this improved targeting technology so that it can be optimally refined for use in rescuing mutated mitochondrial DNA, and thus prevent and cure what may be one of the major causes of cellular aging.
In our current research, we are using cells derived from a patient suffering from a rare mitochondrial disease, that are null for the mitochondrial ATP8 gene (i.e., the ATP8 protein is completely absent). We have inserted our improved versions of the ATP8 gene, equipped with our specialized mitochondrial tagging system, into the nuclear genome. Inserting it into the nuclear genome helps to protect the gene from oxidative damage, while our tagging system will help guide the functional protein into the mitochondria where it is needed.
We need your support at this critical juncture of the MitoSENS project. The MitoSENS team has already demonstrated the rescue of cells containing mitochondrial mutations, and has recently generated highly promising preliminary data showing the rescue of the complete loss of a mitochondrial gene. Our next steps will focus on improving the effectiveness of the targeting system, so that we can repeat our success with one mitochondrial gene to all thirteen. We will then transition this work into animal models of mitochondrial dysfunction. This would be a crucial step in what may be the development of an eventual cure for aging and aging related diseases.
We have a talented team of highly trained mitochondrial biologists working on MitoSENS. Right now the rate-limiting factor is the cost of the expensive reagents that we use for these experiments. Increasing our funding with this campaign will allow us to double the pace of our research and bring results to the public that much faster. We have made preliminary progress on rescuing function with a second gene, ATP6, and your support will help us perfect our targeting of both ATP8 and ATP6. This requires more cells, more viruses, and many new synthetic gene sequences. Specifically, we will spend your generous donations on cell culture reagents, oxygen consumption measurements, virus production, quantitative reverse transcription PCR, DNA synthesis services, and publication of our results in a peer-reviewed journal.
Your support will help take us there.
Great Success Thus Far!
Hi Everyone, it’s been an amazing few months. In short, we have been tremendously successful in our efforts to rescue a mutation in the mitochondrial genome!
Essentially we’ve shown that we can relocate both ATP6 and ATP8 to the nucleus and target the proteins to the mitochondria. We can show that the proteins incorporate into the correct protein complex (the ATPase) and that they improve function resulting in more ATP production. Finally, we show that the rescued cells can survive and grow under conditions which require mitochondrial energy production while the mutant cells all die.
We have finished writing up our results and submitted them for review and publication. It may take a while for our results to be published (the peer review process can be lengthy) but as soon as it is I’ll post an update here so you can see the full paper.
We have also started the project that you helped us get to our stretch goal on. We have made all the combinations of MTS with ATP6 that we proposed and are now working on testing them. I’ll let you know when we know more.
Thank you so much for your support!
Hi everyone, thanks so much for your support in reaching our initial goal! I’m proud to announce that we have just received a donation from a local company in the form of a large quantity of free DNA primers. We used the donation to design a huge set of primers that we can use to make dozens more mitochondrial targeting sequences (MTSes) to test for their ability to target proteins to the mitochondria. So instead of the 3 that we’ve tested so far we could test many different ones that we suspect might be good candidates as stretch goals for this campaign.
If we reach a total of $45,000 we can test all of these MTSes on ATP6 and see if we can bring it up to full activity.
If we reach a total of $60,000 we can also test all of these targeting signals on a 3rd gene, Cytochrome B, which has long been a challenging gene for us and others in the field to make functional. If we can get this gene working, we should be able to make any gene in the system work.
In addition, we are excited to announce matching funds! Several of you have asked for this. For every dollar that you donate to the Mitochondrial Repair Project another dollar will go directly into the SENS Research Foundation general fund to support all the great research we do at SRF. Thanks to Reason at fightaging.org for helping to organize this fund to match your donations!