A number of chronic diseases that have widespread effects on worldwide populations, such as cancer, neurodegeneration and cardio-metabolic syndromes, are known to have a connection to mitochondrial bioenergetics, the process by which cells create and use energy. Exactly how the common factors in disease pathologies intersect with bioenergetics and other influences, such as ethnic origin, is still not understood. However, as the study of bioenergetics expands, the developing concept of an individual's bioenergetic health may provide more insight into why certain people and populations are at risk of disease.
Cellular mitochondrial function is known to vary between populations due to differences in genetic background and in response to lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. "The bioenergetic health of an individual or group can serve as an early warning or the 'canary in the coal mine' to determine those with susceptibility to pathologies which stress the mitochondrion," said Victor Darley-Usmar of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and organizer for the "Physiological Bioenergetics: From Bench to Bedside" conference. According to Darley-Usmar, advances in research have made it possible to measure cellular energetic function in the small number of cells that can be isolated from human blood or from tissue biopsy samples. This information can be used to create a bioenergetic health index (BHI), "the first attempt to develop a real time functional endpoint that can ultimately be linked to transcriptomics and metabolomics in a comprehensive individual energetic profile."
"It is clear that we urgently need new clinical tests to monitor changes in bioenergetics in patient populations," Darley-Usmar said. Ultimately, BHI has the potential to be a new biomarker for assessing patient health of (or for) both prognostic and diagnostic value.
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