Researchers Develop New Way to Measure Mitochondrial Function in Muscle

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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Friedreich's ataxia measurement

American researchers have come up with a new, non-invasive way to measure mitochondrial function in human skeletal muscle, a development that could help those with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) and other diseases.

Aberrant functioning of mitochondria, cell components that convert food to energy, is a hallmark of such disorders.

The team from Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institute of Aging produced a video of their approach for the JoVE Video Journal.

JoVE is the world’s first peer-reviewed video journal. Its demonstrations of experiments give researchers a reliable way to replicate complex techniques.

The video shows how to do a phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31PMRS) examination of skeletal-muscle mitochondrial function. The team noted that the approach can be used in vivo — that is, with a living person — and be repeated.

The approach is particularly appealing because a lot of investigation is needed to diminish the growing burden of metabolic syndrome worldwide. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of high blood pressure, high blood-sugar levels, too much abdominal fat, and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Other benefits of the researchers’ mitochondrial-measuring approach is that it needs a minimal amount of scanner time and can be used in metabolic investigations of patients at any center offering 31PMRS facilities.

“Reliable methods to adequately define in vivo skeletal muscle function in a feasible, cost-effective, and reproducible manner are critical to improving outcomes for individuals with a range of diseases that affect mitochondrial function,” Subha Raman, MD, principal investigator of the experiment, said in a press release. “By publishing in JoVE Video Journal, our research team presents a protocol that any researcher can reliably replicate and use to test new ideas to improve mitochondrial function in patients.”

The approach has yet to be widely adopted because variations in methodology and limited written guidance have posed obstacles to its standardization.

The aim of the video was to standardize and optimize the use of in vivo 31PMRS as a tool to  develop therapies for improving skeletal muscle mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) capacity.

OXPHOS capacity is the respiratory capacity of mitochondria. More OXPHOS capacity may improve metabolic and cardiovascular health.

The research project was funded by an OSU Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute Trifit Award and by a National Institutes of Health Intramural Research Program.