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Mutat Res. 2001 Apr 18;475(1-2):169-83.

Mitochondrial DNA in aging and degenerative disease.

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  • 1Department of Foods and Nutrition, University of Georgia, 30602, Athens, GA, USA.


The mitochondrial DNA encodes only a few gene products compared to the nuclear DNA. These products, however, play a decisive role in determining cell function. Should this DNA mutate spontaneously or be damaged by free radicals the functionality of the gene products will be compromised. A number of mitochondrial genetic diseases have been identified. Some of these are quite serious and involve the central nervous system as well as muscle, heart, liver and kidney. Aging has been characterized by a gradual increase in base deletions in this DNA. This increase in deletion mutation has been suggested to be the cumulative result of exposure to free radicals.

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