Why Do Some Cells Have More Mitochondria Than Others?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
The moment you start doing a little research on biological aging, you’ll likely end up narrowing your focus to your cells. Our cells are the foundation of our bodies, creating every tissue and organ that make up every system in our bodies.
When our cells are healthy, we are healthy. As our cells age, our bodies age, sometimes aging us faster than our chronological age. Obviously, we want to age biologically and chronologically as slowly as possible, and that means keeping our cells as healthy as possible.
It’s important to understand what cells are responsible for, what keeps them functioning properly, and how to support them. We’ll talk about why some cells have more mitochondria than others, and discuss how different cell processes can sometimes fail, weakening the cell and causing us to age sooner than we should.
We’ll also talk about how a simple essential fatty acid works to support your cells and make aging your ally.
What Are Mitochondria?
The “powerhouses” of our cells are tiny, membrane-bound organelles called mitochondria — you can think of organelles as your cell’s own tiny little organs. Unlike other organelles in your cells, mitochondria are double-bound; this means they have two protective membranes surrounding them.
Both membranes play a role in synthesizing energy to power the cells through cellular functions.
In order to properly synthesize energy, certain molecules must be moved across the membranes at different times.
Mitochondrial DNA is generally inherited from the mother, and have their own chromosomes.
What Do Mitochondria Do?
The mitochondria in our cells are responsible for creating the energy our cells need to carry out cellular functions. The cellular functions then translate into keeping tissues and organs healthy so they can function properly.
Cells use the carbohydrates and fats we eat to power cellular processes. By breaking the sugars down into chemicals, and utilizing several different processes to synthesize those chemicals, your mitochondria churn out packets of energy for your cells to use. These little packets of energy are called adenosine triphosphate, or “ATP.”
β Fatty Acid Synthesis
One way your mitochondria process energy is through fatty acid synthesis. This process converts nutrients into chemicals needed to help move molecules across the membranes in your mitochondria, and help them store created energy. This process also helps to build signaling molecules, so your cells can talk to other cells effectively.
Fatty acid synthesis is a five-part process that involves transfer, elongation, reduction, dehydration, and a final reduction. This process also helps build cellular membranes, which naturally get weaker and flimsier with age. Ensuring your cells have enough energy to perfect fatty acid synthesis is important in keeping them strong and protected.
ATP is like the inter-cellular energy uber. It carries energy from the inner membrane space (called the cristae) to the matrix. ATP supports almost every cellular function, so it’s really important that ATP (and the mitochondria that produce it) works efficiently within your cells.
When your cells attempt to move molecules through the cellular cytoplasm, ATP helps get the job done. It’s also especially important in the process that helps your muscles contract, and in helping cells communicate with one another.
Basically, ATP is the MVP.
The Electron Transport Chain
In order for molecules to move through the double membranes in your mitochondria, they require special clusters of proteins that work somewhat like gatekeepers. These proteins create a gradient that allows molecules to move back and forth through the cellular membranes to create ATP.
Through the electron transport chain, ATP is able to be created efficiently within the cell.
The Citric Acid Cycle
The citric acid cycle, also known as the Krebs Cycle, is a part of cellular respiration. This is a series of chemical reactions that produce acetyl-CoA, an important molecule needed for fatty acid synthesis and the production of ATP.
Functions in your cells need to maintain homeostasis (or balance in your body’s everyday processes and chemicals) to work properly. Calcium, for instance, must be maintained in a delicate balance to prevent hypercalcemia or hypocalcemia, the effect of having too much or too little calcium in the cell.
Although most of the calcium in your body is found in skeletal tissue, the .01% found in the cells is found in the mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum.
Cellular signaling is the process through which cells communicate with one another to carry out multicellular functions. Calcium signaling is involved with virtually every part of your cell’s life. It helps guide your cells through the cellular processes discussed above, like ATP synthesis and fatty acid synthesis. It’s important for maintaining cellular homeostasis.
Your cells also use certain cholesterols to synthesize steroids that are important for brain health, sexual health, and the creation of certain horomones. Steroid synthesis is another way your cells churn out precursor molecules that are necessary for specialized cells (like the ones in your brain) to function.
All of these processes take place in the mitochondria of your cells, making this tiny little double-bound organelle a really big deal to your cells.
That still leaves the question — why do some cells have more mitochondria than others?
Why Do Some Cells Have More Mitochondria?
It’s a simple answer. Some cells have bigger jobs than others, so they need more energy.
Cells in your muscles, for instance, have many more mitochondria than the cells in your eyes. Your heart cells have the most mitochondria, nearly 5,000 per cell.
Cells in organs like your liver also have many mitochondria to power the organ’s ability to metabolize nutrients and drugs.
The organ or tissue where the cell is located determines the number of mitochondria the cell has. If the tissue or organ has an energy-exhaustive job, you can expect the cells to have a lot of mitochondria to produce that energy.
What Happens When Cells Die?
Apoptosis refers to the death of a cell, and with most cells, this death is programmed. Your cells are smart, and through communication with other cells (cellular signaling), they efficiently get rid of cells that are no longer needed, or cells that have become damaged beyond repair.
Once these cells have been eliminated, there exists room for new cell creation.
When your cells do not reach apoptosis, however, damaged, non-functioning cells accumulate, which is one of the causes of disease.
This also makes it difficult for new cell creation. A hallmark of cancer, for instance, is the creation of cells that just accumulate and accumulate (into a tumor) instead of going through the normal life cycle that should end in apoptosis.
How To Support Cellular Health
It’s amazing to consider the variety of processes our cells undergo to keep us healthy. The mitochondria of our cells keep them powered to carry out cellular processes and to ensure every system and organ in our body works.
As we age, however, those mitochondria slow down. Mitochondrial decline means the cells don’t have as much energy as they need to carry out their processes, and it means your cells age faster than normal.
Thankfully, there’s a solution.
Picture it: the 1970s. Congress released a series of dietary recommendations proclaiming that people should lower their intake of saturated fats. We are just now learning that this was not the best advice and not all saturated fats are as bad as we once thought. In fact, one saturated fat is now considered essential for our health.
Meet C15:0. Pentadecanoic acid — we know it as C15:0 — is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid found in whole-fat dairy products like whole milk and butter, as well as in some fish and types of plants.
If it sounds difficult to find a balance between getting enough C15:0 and overconsuming the “bad” saturated fats, it is. That’s where fatty15 enters in to provide the C15:0 human bodies need (especially as they age), and in a more efficient way (minus the cows and calories).
C15:0 helps support your cells in three important ways:*
Improved mitochondrial functioning. As we age, mitochondria can get a bit… sluggish, to say the least. Highly reactive chemicals are formed as byproducts of this sluggishness and decreased efficiency, and addressing those gaps helps the human body increase in overall wellness. That’s where C15:0 steps in, working to end these mitochondrial dysfunctions. Studies have shown that decreased mitochondrial function goes hand-in-hand with chronic conditions and aging. The C15:0 fatty acid helps supercharge your mitochondria, and increases their performance by 45%. That’s big news for aging mitochondria, no matter what tissue or organ they might support.
Stronger cell membranes. When fatty acid synthesis declines, your cell membranes become weak and flimsy, making them susceptible to external stressors that can damage or even destroy the cell. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates itself into cell membranes, fortifying those membranes and keeping them strong.
Improved cellular signaling. When cells can’t talk to each other, you lose cellular homeostasis, and basic processes like sleep, appetite, and even mood can be affected. C15:0 helps improve cellular signaling to restore homeostasis. You’ll feel better, all-around — that’s what the right balance can do!
Fatty15: Your Cellular Solution
Fatty15 is a healthy aging supplement to support your long-term health and wellness. FA15™ is the pure version of C15:0, and it’s the only ingredient in fatty15. It works at the cellular level to promote metabolic, immune, heart, and liver health.
In addition, two out of three people taking fatty15 report near-term benefits within 6 weeks, including deeper sleep, less snacking, and a calmer mood.
Unlike other fatty acid supplements like omega-3s, you only need one small pill a day to restore your levels of C15:0 and give your cells (and the mitochondria in them) a fighting chance against age-related breakdown.
Your cells need strong, powerful mitochondria and taking fatty15 can help keep your mitochondria performing at their optimal level.
Get started with fatty15 here, and see how supporting your cellular health supports a healthier you.*
Nicholas Schork PhD
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Nicholas is a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Quantitative Medicine and Systems Biology Division at Translational Genomics Institute, an affiliate of The City of Hope. In addition, as a leader in the design and analysis of studies of longevity, Nicholas is Scientific Director for the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Aging-sponsored Longevity Consortium.