Biology

Unexpected new component discovered circulating in bloodstream

Unexpected new component disco...
Researchers have discovered a new component in blood plasma
Researchers have discovered a new component in blood plasma
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Researchers have discovered a new component in blood plasma
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Researchers have discovered a new component in blood plasma
Microscope images of the structures containing fully-functioning mitochondria, which were discovered in the bloodstream for the first time
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Microscope images of the structures containing fully-functioning mitochondria, which were discovered in the bloodstream for the first time

Researchers at the Montpellier Cancer Research Institute (IRCM) have discovered a new component in blood that has never been detected there before. Mitochondria are normally found inside cells, but the team has now discovered them floating around on their own in the bloodstream.

Often referred to as the power houses of cells, mitochondria are organelles that play a key role in metabolizing energy and cell signaling. Occasionally they are found outside of cells, but usually only as fragments within platelets.

But after a seven-year study, an IRCM team has now found complete and fully-functioning mitochondria in blood plasma, contained inside highly-stable structures. Using electron microscopy, the researchers analyzed plasma samples from about 100 people, and found up to 3.7 million of these mitochondria-containing structures per milliliter of plasma.

Microscope images of the structures containing fully-functioning mitochondria, which were discovered in the bloodstream for the first time
Microscope images of the structures containing fully-functioning mitochondria, which were discovered in the bloodstream for the first time

The team was originally tipped off to the presence of mitochondria in blood by previous studies, which found that a person’s blood plasma can contain up to 50,000 times more mitochondrial DNA than other types of DNA. That implied that whole mitochondria were circulating through the bloodstream inside stable, protective structures.

“When we consider the sheer number of extracellular mitochondria found in the blood, we have to ask why such a discovery had not been made before,” says Alain Thierry, lead researcher on the study. “Our team has built up expertise in the specific and sensitive detection of DNA in the blood, by working on the fragmentation of extracellular DNA derived from the mitochondria in particular.”

The discovery means that this extracellular mitochondria must be playing some kind of biological role. The team hypothesizes that it may be helping to induce immune and inflammatory responses, and helping cells communicate with each other.

The research was published in The FASEB Journal.

Source: Inserm

7 comments
ChairmanLMAO
uh do ya think maybe they help the body GROW LOL????
Ralf Biernacki
It's a jaw-dropping discovery. These mitochondria must come from some cells---they do not have the machinery to self-replicate. Which cells produce and expel these mitochondria? My wild guess is that they are made in the spleen. Or could it be that these mitochondria are exchanged between cells? They depart from a cell somewhere in the body, take the train, and arrive at some other cell somewhere else?
guzmanchinky
How in tarnation have we not seen this before? Maybe it's a Jedi thing???
DavidN
An individual's mitochondria originate from mother. They are specialized for oxidative phosphorylation, though they lack genes for independent existence. Red blood cells lack a nucleus. It seems reasonable mitochondria should exist independently in blood. This discovery confirms what is reasonable.
DavidN
An individual's mitochondria originate from mother. They are specialized for oxidative phosphorylation, though they lack genes for independent existence. Red blood cells lack a nucleus. It seems reasonable mitochondria should exist independently in blood. This discovery confirms what is reasonable.
Eddy
So what happens to them when they meet foreigners from a blood transfusion.
clay
Why? Because they weren't looking for it. :-)

This is a great example of a problem that occurs in science and many research operations: People with deep, DEEP expertise in one particular silo know sooo much about that area that they miss the forest for the trees.

It is a strong argument to include laymen and non-SME's in your research and development programs.