H+ Magazine
Covering technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing–and will change–human beings in fundamental ways.

Editor's Blog

Kirk Stokel
March 21, 2011


Mitochondrial dysfunction is a primary cause of age-related decline. [1-7] In a revealing study, a team of researchers showed that muscle tissue of a 90-year-old man contained 95% damaged mitochondria compared to almost no damage in that of a 5-year-old. [8]  When one looks at the boundless energy of a child compared to an elderly person, the devastating impact of mitochondrial degradation become instantly apparent.  A myriad of recent scientific reports link defective and deficient mitochondria to virtually all degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and cancer. [9-13]  Up until now, the best we could do was protect and improve the function of existing mitochondria using nutrients like L-carnitine, lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q10.

In an unprecedented breakthrough, a compound has been discovered that promotes the growth of new mitochondria structures within aging cells. [14]  In this article, you will discover how this novel compound can help reverse cellular aging by activating genes that stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, which means the generation of new mitochondria.

Mitochondria are the only cell components (other than the nucleus) to possess their own DNA. This means mitochondria have the ability to replicate and increase their number within a single human cell.  Human cells may house anywhere from 2 to 2,500 mitochondria, [15-17] depending on tissue type, antioxidant status, and other factors.  A growing number of biologists espouse the theory that mitochondrial number and function determine human longevity. [18-20]

To put it simply, the more functional mitochondria you have in your cells, the greater your overall health and durability.  The problem is that as we age, our mitochondria degrade and become dysfunctional. Age-related destruction of the mitochondria occurs more rapidly than in other cell components, meaning that for most people, it is loss of functional mitochondria that ultimately leads to personal extinction.  The challenge aging humans face is that methods to increase the generation of new mitochondria are difficult to adhere to. Up until recently, the only natural ways to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis were calorie restriction or exhaustive physical activity.

A natural agent with the power to safely induce mitochondrial biogenesis would mark an extraordinary advance in the quest to halt and reverse cellular aging. A compound called pyrroloquinoline quinone or PQQ is rapidly emerging as that nutrient.

PQQ: A Quantum Leap That May Reverse Cellular Aging

PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) plays a critical role across a range of basic life functions. As an ultra potent antioxidant, it provides extraordinary defense against mitochondrial decay: PQQ’s chemical structure enables it to withstand exposure to oxidation up to 5,000 times greater than vitamin C. [21]  When combined with CoQ10, research shows just 20 mg per day of PQQ can significantly preserve and enhance memory, attention, and cognition in aging humans. [22]  But the most exciting revelation on PQQ emerged early in 2010, when researchers found it not only protected mitochondria from oxidative damage—it also stimulated growth of new mitochondria!

PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) plays a critical role across a range of basic life functions. As an ultra potent antioxidant, it provides extraordinary defense against mitochondrial decay: PQQ’s chemical structure enables it to withstand exposure to oxidation up to 5,000 times greater than vitamin C. [21]  When combined with CoQ10, research shows just 20 mg per day of PQQ can significantly preserve and enhance memory, attention, and cognition in aging humans. [22]

But the most exciting revelation on PQQ emerged early in 2010, when researchers found it not only protected mitochondria from oxidative damage—it also stimulated growth of new mitochondria! [14]

PQQ Is an Essential Micronutrient

PQQ is ubiquitous in the natural world. It has been found in all plant species tested and is present in human milk. Humans, however, are not capable of synthesizing it. [23] This has led researchers to classify PQQ as an essential micronutrient.  PQQ’s potential to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis was foreshadowed by early findings indicating its central role in growth and development across multiple forms of life.

PQQ has been shown to be a potent growth factor in plants, bacteria, and higher organisms. [21,24,25] Pre-clinical studies reveal that when deprived of dietary PQQ, animals exhibit stunted growth, compromised immunity, impaired reproductive capability, and most importantly, fewer mitochondria in their tissue. Rates of conception, the number of offspring, and survival rates in juvenile animals are also significantly reduced in the absence of PQQ. [26-28]  When PQQ is introduced back into the diet, it reverses these effects, restoring systemic function while simultaneously increasing mitochondrial number and energy efficiency.

These compelling data prompted a team of researchers at the University of California- Davis to specifically analyze PQQ’s influence on cell signaling pathways involved in the formation of new mitochondria. [14] Their work, published last year, led to several extraordinary discoveries. They found that PQQ’s critical biological roles stem from its ability to activate genes directly involved in cellular energy metabolism, development, and function. [14]

Their findings shed light on results from favorable prior studies. For example, PQQ deficiency in juvenile mice results in a 20-30% reduction in the number of mitochondria in the liver, elevated blood glucose, and impairment in oxygen metabolism. [26]  These are hallmark indicators of mitochondrial dysfunction. Yet when PQQ was put back into the diet, these pathological effects were reversed, along with an increase observed of new mitochondria.  This and additional animal model data [28] taken together confirm PQQ’s ability to significantly boost mitochondrial number and function—a key to cellular anti-aging and longevity.

How PQQ Generates New Mitochondria

Mitochondrial biogenesis can be defined as the growth and division of pre-existing mitochondria. This phenomenon is not only accompanied by increased mitochondria numbers, but also their size and mass.

Mitochondrial biogenesis requires the coordinated synthesis and import of 1,000- 1,500 proteins where they facilitate the production of healthy new mitochondria.

Mitochondrial biogenesis occurs through the combined effects of genes activated by PQQ via the following three mechanisms:

  • PQQ increases expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha or PGC-1a. pGC-1a is a “master regulator” gene that mobilizes your cells’ response to various external triggers. It directly activates genes that boost mitochondrial and cellular respiration, growth, and reproduction. Its capacity to modulate cellular metabolism at the genetic level favorably affects blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride breakdown, and the onset of obesity. [29]
  • PQQ activates a signaling protein known as caMp-response element-binding protein or CReb. The CreB gene plays a pivotal role in embryonic development and growth. It also beneficially interacts with histones, molecular compounds shown to protect and repair cellular DNa. CreB also stimulates the growth of new mitochondria. [30]
  • PQQ regulates a recently discovered gene called dj-1. as with pGC-1a and CreB, DJ-1 is intrinsically involved in cell function and survival. It has been shown to prevent cell death by combating intensive antioxidant stress and is of particular importance to brain health and function. DJ-1 damage and mutation have been conclusively linked to the onset of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. [31-34]

Protecting Against Mitochondria- generated Free Radicals

As the primary energy engines of our cells, the mitochondria rank among the structures most vulnerable to destruction from oxidative damage.  The formidable free radical-scavenging capacity of PPQ furnishes the mitochondria considerable antioxidant protection.  At the core of this capacity is an extraordinary molecular stability. [35] As a bioactive coenzyme, PQQ actively participates in the energy transfer within the mitochondria that supplies the body with most of its bioenergy (like CoQ10).

Unlike other antioxidant compounds, the stability of PQQ allows it to carry out thou- sands of electron transfers without undergoing molecular breakdown. It has been proven especially effective in neutralizing the ubiquitous superoxide and hydroxyl radicals. [36]  According to the most recent research, “PQQ is 30 to 5,000 times more efficient in sustaining redox cycling . . . than other common [antioxidant compounds], e.g. ascorbic acid.” [37]

Protection Against Brain Aging

PQQ has been shown to optimize function of the entire central nervous system. It reverses cognitive impairment caused by chronic oxidative stress in pre-clinical models, improving performance on memory tests. [40] It has also been shown to safeguard a gene involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease (called DJ-1) from self-oxidation—an early step in the onset of Parkinson’s. [41]

Reactive nitrogen species (RNS), like reactive oxygen species, impose severe stresses on damaged neurons. [42] They arise spontaneously following stroke and spinal cord injuries, and have been shown to account for a substantial proportion of subsequent long- term neurological damage. PQQ directly suppresses RNS in experimentally induced strokes. [43] It also provides additional protection by blocking gene expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, a major source of RNS, following spinal cord injury. [44]

PQQ protects brain cells against damage following ischemia-reperfusion injury— the inflammation and oxidative damage that result from the sudden return of blood and nutrients tissues deprived of them by stroke. [45] Given immediately before induction of stroke in animal models, PQQ significantly reduces the size of the damaged brain area. [46]  This finding implies that if a person were to suffer a temporary loss of cerebral blood flow due to cardiac arrest, stroke, or trauma, that having PQQ in their body would afford considerable protection against permanent brain damage.

PQQ also beneficially interacts with brain neurotransmitter systems. In particular, PQQ protects neurons by modifying the important NMDA receptor site. [47,48] NMDA is a powerful mediator of “excitotoxicity,” a response to long-term overstimulation of neurons that is associated with many neurodegenerative diseases and seizures. [49-51] PQQ protects against neurotoxicity induced by other toxins, including mercury. [52,53]

A mounting body of evidence points to PQQ as a potent intervention in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Both are triggered by accumulation of abnormal proteins that initiate a cascade of oxidative events resulting in brain cell death.  PQQ prevents development of alpha-synuclein, the protein responsible for Parkinson’s disease. [54] It also protects nerve cells from the oxidizing ravages of the Alzheimer’s- causing amyloid-beta protein. [55] A 2010 study revealed that PQQ could prevent formation of amyloid-beta molecular structures. [56]  These effects were traced to three distinct biochemical mechanisms described earlier.

PQQ has also been shown to protect memory and cognition in aging animals and humans. [22,57] It stimulates production and release of nerve growth factor in cells that support neurons in the brain. [58] This may partially explain why PQQ supplementation of aging rats resulted in marked retention of their maximum memory function. [57]  In humans, supplementation with 20 mg per day of PQQ resulted in improvements on tests of higher cognitive function in a group of middle-aged and elderly people. [22]

PQQ has also been shown to protect memory and cognition in both aging animals and humans.

These effects were significantly amplified when the subjects also took 300 mg per day of CoQ10. Presumably a lower dose of the more absorbable ubiquinol form of CoQ10 would provide the same benefit as 300 mg of ubiquinone.

Cardiovascular Defense

As with strokes, damage in heart attacks is inflicted via ischemia-reperfusion injury. Ischemia-reperfusion means loss of blood flow (ischemia) to part of the body and the subsequent re-flow (reperfusion) when blood flow is restored. Cells are injured when blood flow is interrupted and often sustain even greater damage when blood flow is suddenly restored.  Supplementation with PQQ reduces the size of ischemia-reperfusion damaged areas in animal models of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). [5] This occurs whether the supplement is given before or after the ischemic event itself.

To further investigate this potential, researchers at the VA Medical Center at UC-San Francisco compared PQQ with metoprolol, a commonly prescribed beta blocker that is standard post-heart attack clinical treatment. [60] Given alone, both treatments reduced the damaged areas’ size and protected against heart muscle dysfunction. When they were given together, the left ventricle’s pumping pressure was enhanced. The combination also increased mitochondrial energy-producing functions—but the effect was small compared with the better response seen with PQQ alone. [60] And only PQQ favorably reduced lipid peroxidation. The remarkable conclusion: “PQQ is superior to metoprolol in protecting mitochondria from ischemia/reperfusion oxidative damage.” [60]

Subsequent research from the same team has demonstrated that PQQ helps heart muscle cells resist acute oxidative stress. [61]  The mechanism? Preserving and enhancing mitochondrial function.

Why Mitochondria are so Vulnerable to Free Radical damage

The death spiral of our mitochondria is accelerated by the very physiological function they must perform, i.e. energy production. As the cell’s power generators, mitochondria are the site of enormous and constant oxidative activity that spews out toxic free radicals. To make matters worse, relative to nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA possesses few defenses against free radical damage. [38,39]

DNA in the cell’s nucleus is protected by numerous “guardian” proteins that blunt the impact of free radicals. No such repair systems exist to protect mitochondrial DNA.

Nuclear DNA also enjoys superior structural defenses. It is housed within a protective double-membrane that separates it from the rest of the cell. This double-membrane is complemented by a dense matrix of filament proteins called the nuclear lamina, a kind of hard shell casing to further buffer DNA from external impacts.

By comparison, mitochondrial DNA is left almost entirely exposed: it attaches directly to the inner membrane where the mitochondria’s electrochemical furnace rages continuously, generating an enormous volume of toxic reactive oxygen species. This is why supplementation with lipoic acid, carnosine, and other mitochondrial-protecting antioxidants is so important.

The extraordinary antioxidant capacity of PQQ represents a powerful new intervention that may effectively reinforce the mitochondria’s meager defenses.

Summary

Cellular aging is intimately associated with the decline in mitochondrial number and functionality. Nutrients that provide pro- tection to existing mitochondria include resveratrol, carnosine, lipoic acid, L-carnitine, and CoQ10. During the course of normal aging, however, the number of functional mitochondria pathologically diminishes, leading to a host of debilitating disorders followed by death of the organism.  For the first time in scientific history, a natural compound called PQQ is available to increase the functionality of existing mitochondria while promoting the generation of new mitochondria inside aging cells.

This article is copyright 2010 by Life Extension Magazine (R), a sponsor of H+ Magazine, and is reprinted with permission.

To order PQQ, please call Life Extension at 1-866-748-7538, or visit www.lef.org/hplus.


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35 Comments

    This article is just a product placement and it should be marked as an ad from the front page!

    This is just an ad and the next time you make an ad, I would suggest leaving out the pics. It makes you look like a journalist rather than a pseudoscientist...

    Also, "overall health and durability" is not a verifiable statement. I don't doubt mitochondria are important to health but I would need more specific claims to even judge you right or wrong.

    So you are not even wrong.

    Bye.

    If you're trying to pass a stealth ad off as an article, don't bold so much and have so many stock "doctor/lab" photos.

    Or if you do, call it an ad.

    oh look, more vitamins.

    Vitamins...yummy...I must be the only one here that enjoyed reading this.

    This is not just an ad. Look at all the references and the work that went into it.

    Please don't mix up ads and articles! This is a piece of advertising that has NOTHING to do among articles by Ben Goertzel and Extropia daSilva. Who is monitoring this magazine????

    I Hope H+ gt bank for this ad. does anyone have unbiased info about this miracle vitimin?

    Hmmm ... OK, in hindsight the negative comments on this article are not wholly surprising!! But let me try to clarify a few things.

    Firstly, it's not an "ad" -- although Life Extension Foundation is a donor to Humanity+, they didn't buy advertising space in which to run "ads as articles." Rather, they gave us permission to choose some of their more scientifically interesting (in our opinion) articles from Life Extension Magazine to re-run in H+ Magazine. I thought this was a cool opportunity to get some interesting information out to our audience.... But based on some the comments on the article, I can see that it may have come across the wrong way.... (Hey, I'm a scientist, not a marketeer ;p)

    I chose to run this article because the scientific grounding seemed pretty strong to me. I think it's an interesting article, even if different from ordinary H+ fare. Actually I've done some work on the relation between mitochondrial function and aging myself, and the science in the article seems pretty solid to me. (Although of course, that doesn't imply taking the supplement is necessarily a great idea -- I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, blah blah....)

    Anyway, we'll take your critiques under consideration in determining our future content! Perhaps we can figure out a different way to bring this sort of info to H+ mag readers without raising anybody's ire, or giving any untoward appearances...

    Thanks for your tolerance as we experiment with our magazine!

    --
    Ben Goertzel
    Chair, Humanity+
    Co-Editor, H+ Magazine

      It has some interesting info, but it's pretty obvious it was written by a marketing copy writer and not a writer commenting on the achievement.

      removal of the overused boldface and italics would have been a good start, and editing down some of the boilerplate sales talk would have helped too. It reads like a snake oil sales pitch, when it should read like a report on the development and potential promises of PQQ

        Sure ... good points, Valkyrie...

    Aging is the product of a lot processes. This article completely omits this fact, thus it is misleading.
    For example, aging is also partially caused by telomere shortening and several other forms of DNA damage, including mutations.

    I was going to say this looks like an ad, but everyone else seems to have beat me to it. it's almost like reading Life Extension magazine; that one's free guys.

      Sorry Ben, didn't read your comment before I posted. My bad. The numerous references are solid, but like I said you can kind of tell it's an article from Life Extension- they have a way of "plugging" their products in scientific articles. I don't know about everyone else, but I'd prefer solid science- the more detailed the better (correlation coefficients, types of statistical tests used in analysis, etc.)- over "scientific marketing" any day.

    It seems like most of the commenter's complaints about it being an ad are based on how it upholds a very specific compound as a kind of "miracle drug", sold through the Life Extension company. Sometimes it seems we're too cynical to really accept that something so simple and seemingly good would be true. To those of you who would like to see the "analysis" of the article, I would suggest that you read the studies cited and decide for yourself if they hold up to scrutiny. The font changes look more like the work of an over-excited editor than a salesman, there seem to be too few hyperlinks to the store for that to be true. Or if it is a salesman, they're pretty lousy at their job, and should consider looking for work somewhere else.

    I've been doing some research since the article went up (since it wouldn't have been the first time a transhumanist advocated something that turned out to be pseudomedicine), and it seems that this is valid; PPQ does indeed improve health by increasing mitochondrial biogenesis. The main study on the subject is , though there are a couple others. It's also used in some supplements for this exact reason. So it looks like this does in fact increase rejuvenation, though side effects don't seem to have been investigated at this point.

      . . . crap; I fail at HTML. The link at the end links to a study in the Journal of Biochemistry, but it looks like I forgot to put in the closing tag.

        Hey don't get down on yourself, people make mistakes sometimes. It's only code.

      Yes, it's valid... I checked out the references myself before deciding to publish it. But based on all these comments it's obvious that just re-posting LEF content on hplusmagazine wasn't a good idea; we should have undertaken the work to write an ordinary H+ mag article on the same content.... The LEF style is too different and doesn't fit into the H+ mag well, although the content is actually solid...

      Actually these comments have been somewhat educational for me, so thanks for posting them.... I realize that when I read something, I tend to go right for the content and ignore the style, but apparently many others have a different approach, and are turned off by certain styles more than I would be...

        Forgive us our crude crap-detection heuristics. There's much bunk and marketing on the interwebs, if you haven't noticed.

    Journalism needs to present multiple sides. Since this is a one-sided exposition, there's no help for the unsophisticated reader (me) in weighing the claims presented.

      Actually I don't accept the idea that every article should present multiple sides. That is one valid journalistic style, but there are others -- e.g. Hunter Thompson style gonzo embedded journalism, and so forth.... I find it frustrating when journalists go out of their way to give the appearance of presenting a balanced opinion.... Personally I found this article interesting which I why I approved it for publication, but after reading these comments I can see we should have chosen a different way of presenting the content...

    Is that an affiliate link? You may want to look into the new FTC guidance on disclosure for blogs.

    I went through that whole article waiting for the "how to incorporate PQQ in your life" section .. and it was a link to a single specific reseller's affilate link despite this stuff supposedly being "ubiquitous in the natural world".

    This smacks of a sales pitch not a balanced/journalist examination of the substance's worth. you could have at least marked it as such.

    Reads like a (bad) sales pitch. Considering this is the third article I read from hplus, I really - *really* - hope this isn't indicative of the general quality of your articles...

    That the first article (i read) was basically just magical thinking about all the things that'll fall into place when we get AGI doesn't help either...

    Quality over quantity might be something to strive for, in a magazine that purports to be the voice of transhumanism.

      Goodness you Internet commentators are heartless!!!

      I help edit this magazine for free, and I have a lot of other things to do with my time....

      The style of this article may not be quite right for H+ magazine, but the contents are actually interesting and relevant, let's not forget that, OK?

      And the article you refer to as "magical thinking" is presumably the one I recently wrote on AGI and nuclear power (as a Forbes commentator accused that article of being "magical thinking"). I addressed that complaint in a P.S. to the article; it's really not valid, since I do have a detailed scientific path written down for working toward the goals described there. Perhaps that wasn't my best article, but hey, nobody hits a home run every time.

      Fortunately I don't have the personality to give up when a bunch of people whine at me for doing something imperfectly; I just try to learn from it and keep on going...

      But .. jeez...

    Seriously, this is an advertisement.

    You can put all the spin on it you want. If I paid for this magazine and I discovered such an article, I'd cancel the subscription.

    I was very happy with the original more OBJECTIVE H+ magazine. If you do not have the time to edit the magazine, move on. This kind of editing along with all that religion injected earlier in other work simply identifies the device as suspect.

    I am very happy NOT to be paying at the moment.

    It's good that people are busting your balls a bit, Ben. It means they care. :-)

    Regarding the whole "this article should be fair and balanced" thing: I have yet to see any opposing opinion to this, despite looking very hard (as I said earlier, I was initially very skeptical of this article). You don't have to teach both sides if there only exists one, and, as far as I can tell, the propositions in this article are as well established as any other.

    Also, with regards to the "advert" format of this article: I agree that I found it annoying. You don't, however, have to leave twenty comments informing Ben of that; I think he got the message with the first five.

    Finally, I must admit that I was also slightly surprised at the "injection of religion" that appeared in earlier articles, e.g. the one on the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Although I agree that this is not very objective, you also have to realize that there were probably Christian Transhumanists reading that article, who then said "Oh, this sounds interesting!" While a nonbeliever, I also investigated the MTA and made a few friends there.

    ~Ian

    I agree, lay off Ben. He thought it was interesting and linked it in here for us. So Ben has extraordinary focus to see past the hokum to the bare scientific facts, it may be a good vitamin. It doesn't mean he's trying to get you to buy in to the stuff, just to look at it. So look, and use your own judgment on the stuff. Ben shouldn't have to predigest the content, especially if he's not getting paid, and you should have the prominent intellect to make your own decisions. Also, Ben, don't feed the trolls - it only makes them more vicious. Thank you for all that you do.

    So which foods should I get for this miraculous PPQ to kick in. :)

    Give the man a break - he works free on the magazine, listens to your opinions has the decency to answer with great humility about a mistake in style he has made and people STILL hammer him. Ben I for one thank you for your time and effort

    Before making your negative comments, all you nay sayers should actually try the product.
    I am 76 years old and have been using the Mitochondrial Energy Optimizer from Life Extension Foundation for just three weeks. I am beginning to feel like a young man again. Yesterday I rode 39 miles on my bicycle on a hot afternoon. Now this may sound impressive in itself for a 76 year old man, but what is even more impressive is that I did the bike ride after spending 2 hours in the YMCA doing light weight training. I truthfully cannot remember when I had such high levels of youthful energy.

    Reading the above comments,especially those wanting, "scientific proof," we have over 300 scientist lying and cheating to secure grants. We have big pharma. whose drugs bring about thousands of deaths every year. We have the FDA that punishes whistle blowers in their agency. We have FDA officials who leave the agency and work for big pharma. I told a group of doctors who look on nutrients with disdain that if the PDR contained any thing that would sustain life I would eat it or drink it.

    the ad at the end where it says where you can bye the stuff is a bit of a give away.

    sorry I meant BUY

    I've read a few books suggesting taking PQQ to help mitochondrial function but I've still not tried it. Some even claim you will be bouncing with energy after a few months on the supplement...very enticing promise but somehow it still concerns me to take things without conclusive proof....

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