The main function of the mitochondria is to enhance energy production through respiration (Kluge, Fetterman, & Vita, 2013). Impairment of the organelles has a major influence on processes that are in need of energy like neurodevelopment, which can result in conditions such as autism (Giulivi et al., 2010). Giulivi et al. (2010) assert that there have been no studies to evaluate abnormalities and dysfunctions of mitochondria and or their DNA abnormalities among autistic children. This research work will express various results of mitochondrial defects in children with autism via an already done experiment. Furthermore, the results of the experiment will be compared to the health or disease states of the children affected with autism.
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According to Giulivi et al. (2010), the study involved children from the renowned CHARGE- Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment study. The method that was used to get the results were accomplished through taking and examining the blood cells, particularly the white cells. The blood samples were used to evaluate the dysfunctions of mitochondria and DNA abnormalities with a focus on the lymphocytes from ten autistic children and ten controls.
The results meant that abnormal mitochondria of the lymphocytes in autistic children were due to many outcomes (Giulivi et al., 2010). Some of them are low pyruvate dehydrogenase complex-PDHC-activity that was accompanied by low levels of lactate-to-pyruvate ratios and an enhanced rate of production of hydrogen peroxide by the mitochondria. Furthermore, there were impairments of complex I alone or in conjunction with other complexes, and outstanding evidence of deletion and/or over the replication of the mitochondrial DNA.
The study findings mean that dysfunctions of the mitochondria cannot only amplify but also propagate the dysfunctions of the brain, which are present in autistic children. That is because there were increased levels of mitochondrial DNA defects in post-mitotic tissues that have high demands of energy such as the brain. Functions of the mitochondria are essential for the normal functioning of the nervous system since those organelles play a major role in organelle dynamics, importation of proteins as well as apoptosis (DiMauro, 2011). However, the main thing with the nervous system is respiration as far as the mitochondria are concerned. The brain is always in need of energy through aerobic activity and cannot function through the process of anaerobic respiration. In this study, the mitochondria that were from the muscles also were noticed to have the capacity to generate energy by anaerobic respiration and in such a case, it was harder to make substantial conclusions (Giulivi et al., 2010).
The use of lymphocytes is important because the cells don’t undergo the process of anaerobic respiration in order to generate energy, therefore, allowing researchers to come up with accurate conclusions (DiMauro, 2011). Due to the dysfunctions and abnormalities of these noble structures, the mitochondria of the autistic children were found to have fewer oxygen amounts in comparison to the control group, meaning that there is a link between autism and mitochondrial functions and structure. If there is less oxygen in autistic children, then the amount of energy produced is less.
The results are important in health because children with autism were more probable to have dysfunctions and abnormalities of the mitochondria such as over replication and deletion of mitochondrial DNA compared to those without the disorder (DiMauro, 2011). Giulivi et al. (2010) conclude that with more research, there will be adequate information concerning autism and new treatment approaches to the disease. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), children with mitochondrial disease may or may not have symptoms of autism. This phenomenon gives a clue that autism and mitochondrial disease are common and may occur concurrently.
In conclusion, mitochondria have many dysfunctions and abnormalities in children who are autistic. Moreover, a mitochondrial disease may be associated with autism. Research should be done in order to find out the frequency of the two conditions happening concurrently. Such research is important to health because the diagnosis of one of the two conditions can indicate an increased chance of having the other one. This can help the caregivers formulate a plan of how to tackle and treat the one diagnosed and prepare to combat the undiagnosed one.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Mitochondrial Disease – Frequently Asked Questions. Web.
DiMauro, S. (2011). A history of mitochondrial diseases. Journal of inherited metabolic disease, 34(2), 261-276.
Giulivi, C., Zhang, Y. F., Omanska-Klusek, A., Ross-Inta, C., Wong, S., Hertz-Picciotto, I.,… & Pessah, I. N. (2010). Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism. Journal of the American Medical Association, 304(21), 2389-2396.
Kluge, M. A., Fetterman, J. L., & Vita, J. A. (2013). Mitochondria and endothelial function. Circulation Research, 112(8), 1171-1188.