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Changes in mitochondrial DNA are among the best-studied genetic factors associated with age-related hearing loss.

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These changes likely impair the ability of mitochondria to produce energy.

Researchers speculate that the impaired mitochondria may affect certain cells of the autonomic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.

There is limited evidence linking somatic mutations in mitochondrial DNA with certain cancers, including breast, colon, stomach, liver, and kidney tumors.

These mutations might also be associated with cancer of blood-forming tissue (leukemia) and cancer of immune system cells (lymphoma).

It typically affects both ears and worsens gradually over time, making it difficult to understand speech and hear other sounds.

This condition results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, many of which have not been identified.

Cells that have high energy demands, such as those in the inner ear that are critical for hearing, are particularly sensitive to the effects of mitochondrial DNA damage.

This damage can irreversibly alter the function of the inner ear, leading to hearing loss.

Mitochondrial DNA is especially vulnerable because it has a limited ability to repair itself.

As a result, reactive oxygen species easily damage mitochondrial DNA, causing cells to malfunction and ultimately to die.

The remaining genes provide instructions for making molecules called transfer RNA (t RNA) and ribosomal RNA (r RNA), which are chemical cousins of DNA.

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