Mitochondria Introduction and Experimental Information Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

As these people get a little bit older, they also find that they want to help the next generation of people to grow up, and this becomes more important than their problems and worries. Old age brings with it a curiosity about what comes next and an acceptance of dying that younger adults do not have very often. These stages are not always exact for everyone, and not everyone reacts to the changes in their lives the same way, but most people move through these certain stages as they grow older and realize that what is important to them changes (Learning, 1997).

Part of this is biological and based on changes in the mitochondria, because people see the deterioration of their physical bodies and they are then faced with the choice of whether they are going to accept it or whether they are going to rail against it - even though nothing can be done. People do many things to try and look younger, but the cutting edge research into mitochondria has nothing to do with serums and creams and cosmetic surgery. Instead, it has to do with people who are working on two things - fighting disease and finding a way to reverse the aging process. There are many people who believe that this age reversal allowing a person to live indefinitely, could be accomplished within as little as three decades.

Those who live a very long time often look at things very differently from younger adults, which makes a person wonder how people would be if they lived for hundreds of years, and if their cells would allow them to do so. Would minute changes in their mitochondria affect the way they did things and the way they looked at the world, or would they always stay the same? They are no longer so concerned with what time it is or whether they have the latest technological advances when they get older, usually. Those kinds of things do not matter to them much anymore. That does not mean that these people are unhappy or have ceased to care about the world, however. It simply means that adult development changes as people age, and things that were once very important to them are no longer significant in their lives (Not, 1992).

Through an examination of various studies and other pieces of information, it appears that adults go through a stage where they are physically strong, and this physical strength slowly begins to fade as they age, although this is true for some more than others. Mentally, young adults are usually quicker at learning and understanding things than older adults, but many older people often remain very good at doing mental things if they keep their minds active throughout their lives. As their cells begin to break down their strength is harder to maintain, and so is their mental acuity, meaning that the mitochondria do play a role in these types of issues.

As for emotional issues, these also change as one ages. The things that are important to young adults - children, friends, parties, etc. - cease to be as immediate of a concern. Once the children grow up they are still loved and worried about, but not quite in the same way as when they were young. Instead, the focus of the emotional concern turns toward helping others and making sure that memories and ideas will carry on in the minds of others. Many older people spend time with younger ones and impart their beliefs, understanding, and wisdom for the next generation.

Cognitive abilities also change, but these are not as obvious with aging unless a person develops Alzheimer's or some related disease that seriously impairs the cognitive functioning of the individual. Those kinds of problems do indicate changes in the cells, because they are not just normal signs of getting older. Mitochondria have to break down and begin to experience difficulties for diseases to become present, and that is a serious concern for researchers who are looking at ways to stop cellular degeneration.

Mitochondria and Evolution

When most people hear the world 'Neanderthal' they automatically think that it means every person who existed before the 'standard' humans. In other words, they think it means the 'missing link' between humans and apes. However, there were a lot of different kinds of fossils found in the past - and some are still being found today - that indicate that there were many different kinds of humans around before the Homo Sapiens of today existed. How those people lived, why they looked the way they did, and where they went are all things that archaeologists and scientists want to understand. One of the best ways that they can do that is by looking at the characteristics of these people and what they indicate. The group of these people that will be studied here will be the Neanderthals, but it is important to remember that this group is not the only pre-Homo Sapiens group to have existed.

The main debate about the Neanderthal is in the classification, as there are still arguments as to whether they are part of the Homo Sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis), or whether they are something else that is genetically not related, and are therefore a species of their own (Homo neanderthalensis) (Serre, 2004). Genetic testing and statistical calculation that was conducted in 2006 was indicative of the fact that 5% of the gene pool of modern man can be attributed to a mixture of 'current' man and those who came before him, with the mixture in Europeans coming from the Neanderthal (Finlayson & Carrion, 2007).

Some other studies, however, still argue for the separate species theory and say that there is really no relationship between modern man and Neanderthals. One of the reasons that this theory is still out there is because the genetic study is the only thing that shows that there might be a relationship there, and that relationship is very slight and could be based on error. Evidence of other ideas that would suggest this, such as cultural interaction, is simply non-existent at this point, and mitochondrial DNA studies have not shown that there is any link between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, nor have some other studies that have been done into the genes and DNA of these early human beings (Serre, 2004; Pavlov, Roebroeks, & Svendsen, 2004; Lieberman, 2007).


It is easy to see that there are much more than just the biological issues that are related to mitochondria. They play many roles, and they are at the heart of functionality and basic existence for all people and for other life forms as well. They have been studied in the past, but there is still more that can be done with them and more that has to be examined. If it really is possible to slow, stop, or even reverse the aging process, working with mitochondria will be one of the most significant ways to do that.


Bailey, R. (1988, October 17). In praise of the conventional life. (Grant Study of Adult Development finds a conventional life leads to happiness and a successful career). Forbes.

Finlayson Clive, and Carrion, Jose S. (2007). Rapid ecological turnover and its impact on Neanderthal and other human populations Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 22(4), 213-222

Learning about life from the movies. (Temple Univ psychology professor Marsha Weinraub uses movie characters to teach students about stages of adult development). (1997, August 1). USA Today.

Lieberman, Philip. (2007). Current views on Neanderthal speech capabilities: A reply to Boe et al. (2002). Journal of Phonetics, 35(4), 552-563.

Not so quietly into the night. (1992, January 1). Psychology Today.

Pavlov, P., W. Roebroeks, and J.I. Svendsen (2004). The Pleistocene colonization of northeastern Europe: A report on recent research. Journal of Human Evolution 47(1-2), 3-17.


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