WCN Vancouver 2011 Opening Lecture
A truly spectacular lecture was given by Professor Douglas Wallace (Pennsylvania, USA) on mitochondrial disease and mtDNA mutations and their anthropological as well as medical implications. Professor Wallace explained hwo the mitochondria (an itracellular organelle/bacteria) invaded a eukariotic cells some 2 billion years ago during our evolution to produce this hybrid and symbiotic cell that we are made of. Consequently, we have the nuclear DNA but also the bacterial mitochondria DNA (mtDNA). He highlighted the key role in energy generation undertaken by the mitochondria; the main source of energy in power in our cells and in our body. He also showed how different capacity to generate or conserve energy in relation to intake (sugar/carbohydrates consumption) have evolved to adapt organisms and humans to live in different geographical parts of our planets. mtDNA can very accuraetly track human migration out of Africa and into the rest of the world with differing energy and mitochondrial phenotypes arising from the environment into which humans migrated. The mutation rate of mtDNA is 10 times higher than that of nuclear DNA because the mitochonderia lack protective histones and protective repair mechanisms. Kidney cells participate in many nergy-rich functions thus making the kidnye particularly suscpetible to mitochondrial damage and related disease. Professor Wallace pointed out to the huge nmber of diseases including common entities susch as hypertension and diabetes that may be influenced by mtDNA mutations; hypertension and its link to inflammtion and atherosclerosis; perhaps not consequential but linked to a mtDNA mutations, similarly diabetes mellitus and nephropathy; perhaps a mtDNA mutation predisposing to both. So increased awareness of this cellular/mitochondrial genome compared to the nuclear one may unravel the secret of many conditions not fully explained by nuclear genes mutations.