1 Jun, 2023 570 Biology

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the power-packs within cells in all complex life on Earth. Inside each cell of every complex organism there are structures known as mitochondria. The 19th century scientists who first observed them thought they were bacteria which had somehow invaded the cells they were studying. We now understand that mitochondria take components from the food we eat and convert them into energy. Mitochondria are essential for complex life, but as the components that run our metabolisms they can also be responsible for a range of diseases - and they probably play a role in how we age. The DNA in mitochondria is only passed down the maternal line. This means it can be used to trace population movements deep into human history, even back to an ancestor we all share: mitochondrial Eve.

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  • Mike Murphy 2 episodes
    Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at the University of Cambridge
  • Florencia Camus No other episodes
    NERC Independent Research Fellow at University College London
  • Nick Lane 5 episodes
    Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London

Reading list

  • The Energy of Life
    Guy C. Brown (Flamingo, 2000) Google Books →
  • The Machinery of Life
    David Goodsell (Springer, 2009) Google Books →
  • Mitonuclear Ecology
    Geoffrey E. Hill (Oxford University Press, 2019) Google Books →
  • Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life
    Nick Lane (Oxford University Press, 2018) Google Books →
  • The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life
    Nick Lane (W. W. Norton, 2015) Google Books →
  • Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death
    Nick Lane (W. W. Norton, 2022) Google Books →
  • The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human
    Siddhartha Mukherjee (Bodley Head, 2022) Google Books →
  • Mitochondria
    Immo E. Scheffler (Wiley, 2007) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. Inside each cell of every complex organism, there are structures known as mitochondria.