Mitochondria work much like Tesla battery packs, study finds

phys.org | 4/9/2018 | Staff
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For years, scientists assumed that mitochondria—the energy-generating centers of living cells—worked much like household batteries, generating energy from a chemical reaction inside a single chamber or cell. Now, UCLA researchers have shown that mitochondria are instead made up of many individual bioelectric units that generate energy in an array, similar to a Tesla electric car battery that packs thousands of battery cells to manage energy safely and provide fast access to very high current.

"Nobody had looked at this before because we were so locked into this way of thinking; the assumption was that one mitochondrion meant one battery," said Dr. Orian Shirihai, a professor of medicine in endocrinology and pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and senior author of the study published in EMBO Journal. It is also not a coincidence that this has taken place in California, where an electric vehicle revolution has made its impact everywhere on campus.

Mitochondria - Type - Structures - Functions - Cell

Mitochondria are one type of organelle—tiny structures that perform specific functions within a cell. All cells in the human body, except for red blood cells, contain one or more—sometimes several thousand—mitochondria. These organelles have a smooth outer membrane and a wrinkled inner membrane that has folds, called cristae, extending toward the mitochondrion's center. Until now, researchers thought that the purpose of the inner membrane's wrinkly texture was simply to increase the surface area for energy production.

"Electric vehicle engineers told me about advantages of having many small battery cells instead of one large one; if something happens to one cell, the system can keep working, and multiple small batteries can provide a very high current when you need it," Shirihai said.

Tesla - Vehicles - Instance - Battery - Cells

Tesla vehicles, for instance, are powered by 5,000 to 7,000 small battery cells, depending on the car model. The small...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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