Mitochondria is part of every cell. They are responsible for converting the food we eat into energy our bodies can use. A mitochondrial disease occurs when the mitochondria are unable to function properly. Cells do not have enough energy to perform their functions and organs begin to fail. Mitochondrial disease causes problems with growth, muscle strength, vision, hearing, learning, heart function, liver function, kidney function, breathing, diabetes, seizures, strokes, and gastro-intestinal functions. Any part of the body that requires energy to function can be affected by a Mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial disease affects 1 in 4000 people. This makes it as common as Childhood Cancer. Mitochondrial diseases contribute to many common ailments like growth failure, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and stroke.

Mitochondrial disease can be inherited for an affected female parent. It can run in families affecting both parents and their children. Many diseases of aging, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, have also been found to have defects of Mitochondrial function.

Some Mitochondrial patients live relatively “normal” lives. Some die early in childhood following prolonged illness. Currently, there is no way to predict the course of this devastating disease and there is NO CURE.

Nearly one in 4,000 people in the United States will develop Mitochondrial disease by the age of 10. Currently, many children in the State of Texas are affected by Mitochondrial disease. Less than 10 percent of them have been diagnosed and are receiving adequate care.


Multiple diseases classified as mitochondrial disorders are inherited in different manners. Mitochondria disease feeds some organs’ cells and starves others – there is no pattern. It is be inherited usually from the mother and is generally more severe in boys than girls, but for adult onset, it can affect either male or female in similar severity. It is a root cause for unexplained symptoms, atypical manifestations of chronic illnesses and “wasting away” at a younger age than is normal.

  ~More than 200 inherited diseases of metabolism affect mitochondria.
  ~Think mitochondria when a “common disease’ has typical features that set it apart
  ~Mitochondrial disease is the body’s inability to produce enough energy to sustain life
  ~Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell
  ~1 in 200 born with a harmful DNA Mutation that can result in mitochondria disease
  ~Harmful mutations in mitochondrial DNA commonly affect only some of the cell functions of the cell and leave other parts unaffected
  ~Symptoms, severity, age of onset can vary tremendously within a family
  ~Manifestation of illness are dependent upon percentage of mutant DNA and location in body
  ~Symptoms of mitochondrial disorders frequently appear later because it takes time for cells to receive enough mutated DNA to cause symptoms
  ~1 birth every 15 minutes – carry harmful mutations of mitochondrial DNA with the potential to develop into life-threatening disease

  ~In Texas approximately 128,000 carry harmful mitochondrial mutation
  ~Mitochondrial disease is as common as childhood leukemia with about the same mortality rate

Discoveries show a link between many common diseases and chronic conditions with mitochondrial dysfunction such as:

   • Alzheimer’s disease
   • Parkinson’s disease
   • Diabetes
   • Heart disease
   • Autism Spectrum Disorders
   • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
   • Exercise intolerance, muscle weakness and poor growth
   • SIDS
   • Kidney disease
   • Seizures and strokes
   • Gastrointestinal Function and swallowing difficulties
   • Leber Optic Atrophy (degradation of vision not related to aging) and loss of hearing
   • Loss of Motor control and Developmental delays
   • Liver function
   • Susceptibility to infection
   • Appears to cause most damage to cells of brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and endocrine and respiratory systems

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About Mitochondrial Disease
November 2013
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