Mitochondria: The Hemi of the Cell

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There are many organelles within a cell, each with individual responsibilities required for life. Of these organelles, the mitochondria are the hemi of the cell, producing the energy necessary for cell function. Reactive oxygen species can cause mitochondrial dysfunction and contribute to many diseases often seen in emergency departments. When reactive oxygen species are produced, the mitochondria undergo functional and structural changes causing the release of cytochrome c. Cytochrome c is responsible for activating apoptotic pathways leading to cell death. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is needed to maintain homeostasis in the body; however, when this occurs prematurely by an increase in reactive oxygen species production, many pathological conditions can occur. Clinicians in emergency departments caring for patients with different diseases should consider that the mitochondria may play an important role in patients' recovery. For instance, myocardial infarctions and burns are two examples of altered physiologic states that play a role in mitochondrial dysfunction. Awareness of the different treatments that target the mitochondria will prepare emergency department clinicians to better care for their patients.

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