Antioxidant Enzyme Mimetics Targeted to Mitochondria:
Mitochondria were first discovered almost 200 years ago, but they received their name only in the year 1898. They are a type of organelle that can be found in nearly every cell of the human body, with the exception of the red blood cells. On the other hand, prokaryotic organisms, such as bacteria, lack mitochondria completely. The number of mitochondria found in each cell varies from tissue to tissue. Cells in the liver, for example, can have thousands of mitochondria. The general consensus of the medical scientists, defines mitochondria as the “cells power ” for human body.
Small organelles get their name after researchers discovered that they play a the main role in the production ” ATP – adenosine triphosphate”, which is the nucleotide that provides the chemical energy to the organism. Moreover, more recent research has shown that mitochondria also play a key role in cellular signaling, cellular differentiation and the life cycle of cells. Mitochondrial defects may cause mitochondria to stop fulfilling at least one of their roles, which in turn can lead to various diseases, such as heart failure or other cardiac dysfunctions.
One of the most important roles of mitochondria involves the regulation of cellular death, better known as apoptosis. As a consequence, any type of mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to the onset of several diseases, such as diabetes, sepsis, or even ischemia-reperfusion injury. Researchers haven’t yet discovered the complete mechanism through which these diseases progress, but the majority of results have indicated that oxidative stress plays a key role in the process. Due to these results, researchers have been searching for therapy solutions that would be able to deliver antioxidant molecules directly to the damaged mitochondria, thus being able to either prevent or repair the damage.
On the other hand, the mitochondria themselves are responsible for producing various types of reactive oxygen species, or ROS. Known types of ROS include hydrogen and lipid peroxide, and superoxide. Each of these types contributes to the oxidative damage caused within the mitochondria, which can lead to important damage. This type of damage is responsible for the onset of several conditions, including aging and various neurodegenerative syndromes. Moreover, oxidative damage is also directly responsible for cellular death, or apoptosis. Unfortunately, there is still not enough knowledge regarding reactive oxygen species and their roles in biology and disease onset.
In order to increase the currently available knowledge, our research focuses on developing enzyme mimetics. Taking advantage of the electrical potential that is naturally found across the inner membrane of mitochondria, these compounds will be able to directly deliver antioxidant molecules to the mitochondria, helping to prevent the damage caused by ROS. Our current models include the use of lipophilic cations which can easily accumulate within the mitochondria due to the electrical potential.