Mitochondria are the power stations within our cells. They convert energy from the food we eat into a chemical form that our cells can use, called ATP. Our brains require a lot of energy, and healthy mitochondria will meet that demand.
They are also influential in the control of the death of cells. When cells are old or broken, they self-destruct – dying in a process called apoptosis – and are cleared away. Mitochondria are involved in activating apoptosis by signaling for the release of enzymes called caspases, which breakdown the cell.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to aging and neurodegeneration. Evidence for their role in the development of Parkinson’s has been building for decades, and researchers have been striving to find ways to restore mitochondrial function as a means of interrupting the disease process.