Space Medicine

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The role of the mitochondria and Q-10 in the creation of cellular energy in the form of ATP

Just a few years ago hardly anybody was able to imaging that the cause of many diseases lay in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are organelles in the cells which are responsible for the provision of more than 80% of the body’s energy (energy-rich triphosphate adenosine triphosphate = ATP).
As previously mentioned, energy metabolism is the prime function of the mitochondria. This is where the respiratory chain plays its most important role. It consists of a row of interacting enzyme complexes (complex I to V). In this process, water is formed from oxygen and bound hydrogen and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is produced. This is the most important energy substrate of the cell. To give an illustrative comparison, Q10 is the electron shuttle of the respiratory chain.

In this way, Q10 can maintain the energy equilibrium. The energy level of a cell in an organ or in the body as a whole is greatly dependent on its concentration in the mitochondrial membranes and other cell membranes. That is to say, when Q10 levels sink due to oxidative stress, there follows a negative bio-energetic deficit in the affected cells. To put it more simply, everything is based on a shift of electrons at higher levels of energy. To summarise, it can be said that a lack of energy or ATP leads to illness.

What is mitochondrial energy medicine?

Above all, mitochondrial medicine means prevention with the protective factors of life. In a cell’s respiratory chain, co-enzyme Q10 negotiates the electron transfer of the mitochondria (energy centres) via cell membranes, thereby enabling the creation of energy.

All bioenergetic processes in the muscles, nerves, immune system, endocrine system and in the genetic repair mechanism only run smoothly when there is sufficient Q10 in the relevant organ system. As Q10 is freely mobile, the body supplies its organ systems depending upon their energy and protection requirements. If an organ system is being excessively demanding in terms of Q10 supplies, a Q10 deficiency in other organ systems may arise.

Free radicals and the decline of the mitochondria

Free radicals are created during biochemical reactions in normal metabolic processes, i.e. during the “burning” of nutrients in the cells mitochondria. As with combustion in an engine, damaging “exhaust fumes” (radicals) are created in the mitochondria when it is used at high power than when less demands are made of it.

This happens especially in the following situations:

  • Physical overexertion (sport, illness)
  • Psychological stress
  • Inflammatory processes
  • Ionising radiation
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Ozone
  • Cigarette smoke etc.

In order to be able to live with normal oxidative stress, the cells – and in particular the mitochondria within the cells – have developed an arsenal of antioxidative protective factors in the course of evolution in order to intercept radicals immediately after their creation. Free radicals are constantly created: when there is cellular stress, the superoxide anion radical achieves concentrations of up to 50%, as opposed to only 2-3 % at other times.

Illness and ageing with mitochondrial decline caused by oxygen radicals

Not only does the ageing process begin in the mitochondria, so do chronic fatigue, susceptibility to infection, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease or neuropathy. As is the case with metal, the effects of oxygen on the human organism also cause it to “rust” or age. The free radicals tend to react with all cellular components and structures and this leads to oxidation of lipids, alteration of genetic material and the denaturation of proteins. Therefore, the more oxygen radicals that are created and not quickly rendered harmless, the more quickly we age. These self-destructive attacks happen then, when we “overwork” our muscles, nerves, blood vessels, or skin. The highest excretion of free radicals is observed with psychological stress which leads to localised ischemia. When we experience anxiety over a loved one, the workplace, overwork, bullying or exam stress, we often overwhelm our body’s own protective mechanisms. This can lead to “paralysis” of bodily functions, particularly to weakness of the nervous and immune systems. The neuro-immunological axis is noticeably disturbed. Over time, cell damage accumulates and certain cells die.

Membrane-dynamic processes

The numerous different types of membranes within the cells and the outer membrane are active participants in the exchange of substances and they form transport vesicles (small hollow spheres) etc. One generally speaks of membrane dynamics. This processes are extremely important for the interaction of the cells among each other and the cell compartments (between nuclei, mitochondria, Golgi etc.). These do not only form a static barrier between the environment and cytosol in the cell.
Several examples:

In order to work, the mitochondria have to import many substances that they need from the cell’s cytosol. The membranes and mitochondria have to work together dynamically for these transport processes. Only then can a pathway be achieved through the layers of the organelle for a substance (e.g. proteins, amino acids or lipids). Nerve cells have to communicate with other cells. This occurs at the synapses – the contact points of two nerve cells. Nerve cells do not have any direct contact with one another, but there is a small cleft at these contact points – the synaptic cleft. If there is agitation which must be passed on, the vesicles containing messenger substances (acetylcholine, serotonin, noradrenaline etc.) merge with the outer membrane of the transmitting nerve cell. Thus, these messenger substances are released into the surrounding area and can communicate a signal to the target nerve cells. This, and many other processes, only function perfectly when the membrane dynamics are undisturbed. If this property has been negatively influenced, illness can be the result. The cause of neurodegenerative illnesses in particular can be associated to this.

The role of calcium in energy placement

Calcium is a very important for the body. It is necessary for bone formation, signal transmission and as a therapeutic substance in acute allergic reactions etc. One of the most important tasks for this ion, however, is to form an ion gradient in the mitochondria. An active transport mechanism and a specific ion channel are necessary for this. Thus, Ca2+ binds the cell to a transport protein which carries the ion into the matrix of the mitochondria. Ca2+ is needed in the mitochondria in order to store energy. Besides the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the mitochondria are the most important store of Ca2+ in the cells. The high concentration of calcium in the mitochondria is a form of energy store. It is easy to imagine that the disturbance of the Ca2+ equilibrium between cell and mitochondria can result in many illnesses. When disturbance occurs, the ability of mitochondria to make energy available is reduced. The body becomes tired more quickly and brainpower is reduced (forgetfulness). The rate of apoptosis (programmed cell death) increases considerably and this dramatically speeds up the ageing process. If this process occurs in the brain or in nerve tissue, it is particularly negative as these cells cannot regenerate themselves. The consequences are the familiar neural diseases.

Solution with administration of ubiquinone or Q10

If you consider all of the possible mitochondrial disorders, it is easy to believe that there is no solution to the problem. However, Mother Nature herself has a solution at the ready. It is the previously mentioned molecule ubiquinone (Q10). It is a natural endogenic antioxidant and is ubiquitous in both the plant and animal worlds. Ubiquinone stands out from all other substances because it is directly involved in the energy-forming processes in the mitochondria. Not only does co-enzyme Q10 count as one of the body’s own dominant radical interceptors, it also influences the entire metabolism of cellular energy and plays a part in almost all dynamic membrane processes. Uninfluenced by external circumstances, the organism produces a certain amount of Q10. This means that the body is not in a position to react sufficiently to stress, infection or illness. In such situations, the body – or every individual body cell – must cope with an insufficient amount of Q10. If this undersupply of Q10 to the body lasts for long, it can lead to a whole range of accompanying illnesses.

The history of co-enzyme Q10

The revolutionary scientific breakthrough of being able to strengthen the cardiovascular system and prolong life naturally came with the discovery of co-enzyme Q10. This sensational discovery for modern medicine and nutritional science of Q10 was made in 1957 by a group of researchers headed by scientist F.L. Crane in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. They proved the existence of Q10 in the mitochondria of the bovine heart. Crane found out that Q10 is capable of many building up and breaking down processes as it has the ability to extract oxygen from a biologically active molecule as well as to supply oxygen to it. This was a profound realisation because too little oxygen ultimately causes cellular energy to become extinct, but too much may lead to death. Q10 was quickly recognised as being a primal substance of life, since there is oxygen on Earth. Every human cell, as well as every other living cell, requires Q10 in order to breathe and to produce energy. Without this nutrient no cell is capable of functioning. The British researcher R.A. Morton gave co-enzyme Q10 the name “Ubiquinone” as it occurs in all life forms, thus also being present everywhere in the human body (ubiquitous).

In the beginning of Q10 research, the only reliable source of Q10 was the heart of a cow. The high costs of procuring Q10, and the related difficulties of doing so, considerably slowed further research activities in the early years following its discovery. The procurement price for a single gram of unpurified Q10 was approx. USD 1,000. In 1978 Peter Mitchel was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discoveries regarding the role of Q10 in energy production in the mitochondria – the cells’ power stations – and for his forward-thinking hypotheses. Prof. Dr. Karl Folkers clarified the chemical structure of Q10 and was the first researcher to demonstrate Q10 in humans, thus recognising the vital importance of this co-enzyme for the respiration and energy production of human cells. Prof. Folkers was awarded the Priestly Medal in 1986, the highest honour given by the American Chemical Society for excellence in chemistry and medicine. He received the award as recognition for his work on Q10, among other things. Following his early experiments regarding Q10’s functional evidence, scientists have developed a complex method of chemical synthesis and mass-production of Q10. The cost of this work was enormous.

During the 1970s the Japanese were able to find a way of producing large amounts of Q10 at a reasonable price with the aid of some astounding technology. The biologist was successful in finding the key to this in the tobacco plant. This provided the characteristic Q10 side chain of 50 carbon atoms.

In 1974 industrial production of Q10 began. After the harvested material was purified and turned into a pharmaceutical product, further comprehensive research with the nutrient became possible. Finally, it was the Japanese once again who discovered a way of creating Q10 by means of fermentation in 1977. This made it possible to produce large amounts of Q10 relatively inexpensively. The price per gram sank from its previous level of USD 1,000 to less than USD 10. The co-enzyme Q10 is also harvested from the aubergine. Prof. Folkers subsequently expressed his satisfaction at this as follows:

“As fermentation permitted the production of larger amounts, the clinical use of Q10 was finally able to take off, without running out of the vital nutrient.”

This explains the relatively long period of time separating the chemical discovery of Q10 and the proof of its healing properties. In terms of biochemistry, Q10 is quite old, in terms of medicine, it is very young. There are now Q10 research institutes in many countries around the world – including Russia. Q10 is now a matter of course in Japan, the USA, Italy, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and Sweden. It has been available as a dietary supplement in most countries for many years now. In Japan and Italy it is available as a medicine for heart failure. Knowledgeable people enrich their diet with it. Medics prescribe it as a treatment for various illnesses and as a preventative measure as it has been known for years that Q10 with its numerous effects not only helps people in the short term, but it is also consciously and effectively contributes to cost reduction within the healthcare system.
Damage to and loss of the mitochondria means a lack of energy illness and ageing! The mitochondria, once living beings, are the main power stations within our cells. A single cell can contain up to 2,000 mitochondria. Detrimental for our health is that the mitochondrial DNA (genetic material) is very vulnerable. Damage which has already arisen is unable to be reversed due to the lack of a repair system. Damage in the mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) accumulate and lead to a bioenergetics deficit and thus to degenerative illnesses. In particular, the mitochondrial genetic material (mtDNA) is completely unprotected. As mtDNA only consists of exons, each hit is absolutely on target and leads to a weakness of the cells and to illness. This also true of mitochondrial damage which is caused by oxygen stress during premature birth. Ubiquinone Q10 stands out from other antioxidants as it is the only substance which can remedy the “bioenergetic deficit”.


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