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A researcher at the Kansas University Medical Center has helped discover a link between mitochondrial DNA and susceptibility to some diseases.
Danny Welch, founding chair of the University of Kansas Medical Center's Department of Cancer Biology, together with colleagues from the University of Alabama-Birmingham published their findings in the August 2013 issue of "Biochemical Journal."
The mitochondrial genome, which is many thousands of times smaller than the genome of a cell nucleus, has encoded in it its own genetic instructions that allow it to perform the task of releasing energy stored in food for use in the body.
Small as the mitochondrial genome is, it could play a large role in health. From experimenting with mice, Welch and his colleagues discovered that mitochondrial DNA could play a role in whether someone develops complex diseases such as cardiovascular disease and metastatic cancer.
Welch said in a news release that the mitochondrial genome could be "a co-pilot, in terms of predisposition toward some complex diseases," along with nuclear DNA.