The Power of Iron, Bond LSC logo, art of red figure against painted background.

Art by Jack Copeland

By Roger Meissen | Bond LSC

Aging brings muscle weakness seen in the lack of strength of a handshake or the sureness of movement.

That atrophy is no accident, and it traces back to how cells, particularly their energy-producing components, decline in function as we climb in years.

One University of Missouri researcher’s latest discovery, published this week in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," shows a distinct cellular reason why this weakness occurs.

His lab revealed how a muscle cell’s mitochondria fail to generate enough energy for skeletal muscles due to one missing iron–sulfur protein. This understanding could one day help lead to treatments for diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy — the most common type of muscular dystrophy in children — and muscle deterioration associated with aging.

“We followed the phenotype, the muscle weakness in our mice, to this protein,” said Ron Mittler, a principal investigator at Mizzou’s Bond Life Sciences Center and a plant biologist. “What we found is that CISD3 proteins — also found in our bodies — are important for regulating the levels of iron in the mitochondria, and previously nobody knew what they were doing.”

Read more from the Bond Life Sciences Center