Kevin Hand

Mitochondria are tiny. A single human cell can contain hundreds to thousands of these potato-shaped organelles, depending on the tissue type. They power the biochemical reactions in our cells through the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

These oft-overlooked furnaces, not studied in earnest until the 1970s, are now the subject of intense scrutiny for their potentially central role in common, complex diseases. They may be, scientists say, pivotal to the etiology of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, epidemics against which researchers and companies have spent billions of dollars but made arguably little progress.

But not everyone agrees with the mitochondrial hypothesis. Complex diseases are simply that, some researchers argue—complex. While mitochondria are essential to human physiology, there has not been sufficient evidence to prove that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a causative role...


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