mitochondrial DNA - all things bad?

Tom Matthews tmatth at
Mon Nov 15 08:53:00 EST 1999

Aubrey de Grey wrote:
> Doug Skrecky wrote:
> > Title
> >   Mitochondrial DNA--all things bad?. [Review] [27 refs]
> > Source
> >   Trends in Genetics.  15(3):91-3, 1999 Mar.
> ...
> > The mitochondrial theory of ageing, however attractive in principle,
> > is supported by very little hard evidence.
> Yes, an excellent review (and I say that not just because I know the
> authors well).  It highlights the shortcomings (i.e. incompatibility
> with existing data) of the simplistic mitochondrial theory of aging,
> which is that we lose bioenergetic capacity due to having fewer and
> fewer functional mitochondrial genomes.  That theory has been history
> for several years, in fact, and the somewhat frustrated tone of that
> review is a reflection of the reluctance to abandon it that some who
> should know better have shown.  What the review doesn't cover is the
> considerably greater difficulties facing the idea that mitochondrial
> decline does NOT have much to do with aging.  It does, however, note
> in conclusion that:
>  "the argument that accumulation of mtDNA defects contributes to the
>   ageing process is unconvincing, unless one postulates a wholly
>   unprecedented 'dominant' effect of a small number of respiratory-
>   deficient cells. Although an interesting hypothesis has recently
>   proposed how such cells may cause a more global defect resulting
>   in tissue senescence, this hypothesis has yet to be tested
>   experimentally."
> but modesty forbids me from elaborating.


Tom Matthews
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