What are mitochondria?

Our body is made of cells, each one being specific to the part it belongs to: muscle cells make up muscles; brain cells make up the brain; and so on. Each cell is a life-form in itself. Imagine a cell being like an egg: it has a centre called the nucleus which acts like the ‘brain’ of the cell, controlling nearly all its functions; and a cytoplasm (a bit like the egg white) which contains many tiny structures that help the cell to survive.

Some of the structures in the cytoplasm include lysosomes that help break up the cell’s waste and debris, the cytoskeleton that helps the cell to maintain its shape, and of course the mitochondria, the batteries of the cell that provide its energy.

The mitochondria’s job is to take in energy from the food we eat, such as fats and carbohydrates, and then like a refinery (turning crude oil into pure petroleum) turn those substances into ATP. This ATP is the cell’s pure energy and it is used to power the nucleus and hence control the cell.

Mitochondria are extremely complex, and just like the oil refinery they require many things to make them work such as vitamins and coenzyme Q10. They also produce their own waste, such as ‘free radicals’.