Wellcome Trust Centre For Mitochondrial Research

Mitochondria matters

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research along with the Newcastle University FMS engagement team hosted a day of talks and discussions for the public called ‘Mitochondrial matters’ about the importance of mitochondria for our brains and muscles, as well as the cutting edge techniques we are developing to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial DNA disease.

The mitochondria are essential parts of our bodies, providing the energy needed for our cells to perform their day to day roles. From brain cell communication, to muscle contraction and regeneration following injury, mitochondria provide the energy needed to carry out these processes. We wanted therefore to create a programme that would highlight the importance of the mitochondria in both ageing and disease.

Supported by the NIHR Newcastle BRC and the Faculty of Medical Sciences, researchers within the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University gave updates on current research before consulting with the audience on cutting edge fertility techniques being developed at Newcastle. The day was introduced by Professor Doug Turnbull, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre, who gave a talk about what mitochondria are and their importance for the cell and in disease. Dr. Lyndsey Butterworth then spoke about some of the new techniques being proposed to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial disease from mother to baby. Following lunch Dr. Julie Murphy led a discussion around the ethics and costs of these techniques, this was followed by a session led by two of our PhD students around the importance of mitochondria for our muscles. Finally, Dr. Amy Reeve gave the last talk of the day and spoke about the importance of mitochondria for Parkinson’s disease.

Talks were given on a range of topics and in a variety of formats from Mitochondria in Disease to Mitochondria in Brain and Muscle Ageing. We held a ‘world café’ style event in which audience members had three very short talks about mitochondria and muscle and we employed a remote voting system allowing us to get instant feedback from the audience on their knowledge of the subjects being discussed. Following lunch researchers invited the audience to give their opinions on mitochondrial transfer techniques being developed at Newcastle. These controversial techniques are being developed at Newcastle University to help prevent the transmission of mitochondrial disease from mother to child. During the lunch break our researchers talked with a number of audience members and answered their questions from the morning session.

We received excellent feedback following this event with many of our audience members saying that they would be interested in hearing more about mitochondrial research.We were delighted by the comments:

‘I think this was an excellent topic for a public outreach event’‘Thank you for all of these wonderfully informative events’ and ‘Excellent day of presentations – well done!’