Slightly Insider Info: Mitochondrial Protofection Works

From Rafal Smigrodzki - via the Extropy chat list - excellent news on progress made by the research group he works with:

Today our team confirmed our previous preliminary data showing that we can achieve robust mitochondrial transfection and protein expression in mitochondria of live rats, after an injection of genetically engineered mitochondrial DNA complexed with our protofection transfection agent. A significant fraction of cells in the brain is transfected with this single injection even though we so far did not optimize the dose.

This achievement has important implications for medicine: protofection technology works in vivo, and should be capable of replacing damaged mitochondrial genomes.

For those new to mitochondrial research and its relationship with aging and rejuvenation science, you can find more on Rafal's work here at Fight Aging! and details on the importance of repairing mitochondrial DNA damage at Aubrey de Grey's Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) website. In short, this merits celebration! We're going be hearing much more about the repair of damaged mitochondria in the years ahead, firstly to cure specific age-related disease, and then to tackle general age-related damage to the mitochondrial genome.


Protofection, if I understand the reference material correctly, is simply the correction/upgrading of existing mtDNA by insertion of new material. NBD. ;)

Posted by: Brian H at July 22nd, 2005 9:41 PM

If repair of Mitochondria becomes easily possible, this would negate one of the SENS steps, wouldn't it? Although I don't know this, I expect moving all of the Mitochondial genes into the nucleus would have unforeseen side effects. Just fixing them ever 10-20 years seems a less risky alternative.

Posted by: Brock at October 30th, 2005 6:51 PM

If it really works well, it should go to some higher journal. Methodology can definitely be published in journal like Nature Biotech. It's quite easy to get bunch of great data when you can transfect mitochondria and deliver whatever gene you like.

Posted by: iskyfishing at February 2nd, 2006 9:37 PM

This is amazing, this is like... an overlap of genetic engineering and bionics or something.

Although... how exactly are they changing every cell for this? This seems more like something you'd do to embryos during formation so they don't age when they're born, not anything that could help someone living who is already formed.

I suppose you could treat stem cells with it... might cause health imbalances, and you'd need a lot, but odds are that stem cells who are both younger and slower to age are more likely to proliferate than aged damaged cells?

Posted by: Tyciol at November 20th, 2006 11:12 AM

I think using both approaches is a good idea. Obviously some testing would need to be done to see if there are any unforeseen effects of introducing the missing mitrochondrial genes into DNA. Since our DNA already contains proteins used by the mitochondrion, it's probably not that risky though. We'd simply be allowing our DNA to produce additional proteins. Assuming this doesn't interfere with other protein expression, or that the mitochondrial DNA isn't overproduced, then there's nothing but benefits to be had.

Although, you will have many people against human genetic engineering like that. Not just the religious, but the ones who think that all DNa has a purpose, and that by modifying our junk DNA (or inserting something in the middle of it), we'd interfere with some subtle fundamental process.

Still, it's a good backup, because the proteins from our DNA could always be underproduced, and since our own DNA can be damaged, having DNA as a backup until we can restore functional mitochondrial DNA sounds better than permanently relying on our base DNA. Spread the load of the protein-forming work I say!

Posted by: Tyciol at November 20th, 2006 11:33 AM
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