The future of cellular science: Q&A with MitoQ’s Chief Scientific Officer
Learn about what cellular science could look like in the future and how it might influence health care systems, moving forward.
Cellular scientists have covered a lot of ground in the last 150 years, with discoveries in cellular fraction techniques, bioluminescence and, of course, cellular-targeted antioxidants. These important discoveries have set the foundations for breakthrough cellular health research. We caught up with our Chief Scientific Officer, Will Stow, to learn about what cellular science could look like in the future and how it might influence health care systems, moving forward. Watch the video below or keep reading to learn about recent breakthroughs in cellular biology – and where cellular health research could take us in the years to come.
Q) Why is cellular health important to you?
Will Stow: Everything you’ve ever done is because of (your) cells. So, it’s certainly important to look after their health. Make sure they’re not in a state of stress and do what you can to keep them healthy because they, in turn, will keep you healthy.
Q) How has cellular science influenced how you take care of your wellbeing?
Will: Once you start to understand what your cells are doing - all of the amazing things that they do in your body – it becomes clear that there are ways you can affect that and ways you can benefit (from) that. A while ago I thought you (just needed to) eat ok and do a bit of exercise and maybe take some vitamins. While that’s a great start, there’s so much more you can do for your health by influencing and looking after your cells and, especially, making sure that your cellular stress does not get out of control. So, it has enabled me to come up with several strategies to do that: to keep that cellular stress down. If I want to do something in particular, perhaps around exercise or a particular health concern, then you can look to influence that from the cellular level up – and you can really make a difference.
Q) Do you think future healthcare systems will change as a result of cellular science?
Will: Definitely. That’s the main reason that they will change. As we understand more about cellular science and the things our cells are capable of, it allows us to better develop medicines – including more personalized medicines: medicines that are more specific to cell types or specific subsets of diseases/things that have been tricky to treat in the past. That will mean that more of these conditions will be hopefully eradicated or at least reduced right down so that they’re not a big burden on people’s lives or on the healthcare system. It will also lead to better diagnoses of conditions if people know what to look for at the cellular level – and screening and things like that. So, I think the more we understand, the better it’s going to get. And I think that’s what led to where we are now with that deeper understanding of cellular biology and cellular science.
Q) What do you think some of the most important cellular biology breakthroughs have been?
Will: Wow, there have been some amazing ones over a long period of time. Obviously, the discovery of cells themselves. People never used to know there were such things as cells. Once you get to that level then that’s a big wow moment, obviously. Some of the other major milestones over the last hundred or so years: learning about inheritance, evolution, the discovery of DNA, the discovery of mitochondria and how they work and how they produce energy for us...things like enzymes and being able to utilize those...More recently, there have been some pretty amazing discoveries: like CRISPR, which has allowed genetic editing on a very fine scale. Huge possibilities are coming out of that. Recently, scientists made synthetic organelles that they can put into cells and actually control the way the cell functions and behaves. Things like that certainly have massive potential.
Obviously, a topical one is mRNA vaccines. Although the research has been going on for a while, it has suddenly had a fire put under it and it’s proving very successful. There’s a huge amount of potential through mRNA vaccines to treat other conditions too – things that we’ve been struggling with like HIV or cancer, so that’s a massive one and that’s using the cells themselves to achieve what you’re after.
And, obviously, stem cell therapies are huge and the potential is massive for those. Things are being discovered all the time and the next huge thing could be discovered tomorrow, so, it’s a very exciting field.
Q) What MitoQ research are you most excited about?
Will: There was the recent trial – the Colorado study – that was very exciting for MitoQ: showing the link between reducing oxidative stress and bringing that cell stress down. They were able to show that taking MitoQ, even over a short period of time (for six weeks), was able to make otherwise healthy older people’s blood vessels act like they were much younger – someone that was 20 years younger - making them more flexible and better able to dilate. That, obviously, has a lot of downstream effects in improving health and healthspan. So that was a big one. They’re following that up now with a bigger trial.
There was a recent study that’s come out of the University of Auckland here in New Zealand showing that MitoQ given to athletes was able to improve their performance in a cycling time trial. The participants did the time trial first without MitoQ and then they started taking MitoQ and did it again. There was a significant improvement in their speed. They were able to complete this time trial up to 20 seconds faster – which might not sound like a lot to some people, but in a cycling race 20 seconds is a long time. Another interesting part of that is that no one perceived that they were working any harder. They felt like they were putting the same amount of effort in but they were producing this performance increase. So, that really shows that you can tune up your mitochondria and get much more out of them and you can’t even feel it’s happening. It’s just happening throughout your body. So, those have been some exciting studies.
Q) Are any new MitoQ clinical trials underway?
Will: The University of Colorado study I mentioned earlier – about blood vessel health – they have begun recruiting for a follow-up study for that. The original one was a pilot study, this new one is a much bigger study: they’re testing it in six times as many people, comparing it to placebo, using a longer treatment time and looking at more end-points around vascular health. So that’s going to be really exciting.
There are some other studies about to kick off. There’s a big one in the UK which is looking at inflammatory bowel disease. That’s going to be a big one. The University of Edinburgh is conducting that. So that could be really exciting too. Over two dozen clinical trials are either ongoing or about to launch – so the human study arena is really picking up. There’s a lot of interest out there from some top universities around the world, so definitely watch this space.
Q) How does MitoQ relate to the free radical theory of aging?
Will: The free radical theory of aging is a theory of aging, obviously, that one of the most significant contributors to the aging process is uncontrolled free radical production and the accumulation of free radicals. Free radicals can damage your cells and then, when your cells divide or reproduce to make the next generation of cells, some of that damage can be transferred to the new generation. As you go through generation after generation, the accumulative damage grows and more and more damage gets transferred. Eventually, these cells become so damaged that they become unviable or it causes some serious health conditions. (This theory) was first come up with about 70 years ago: so, it’s not a new theory. It’s certainly still a major one but now we know there is more to the aging process than that. But it’s certainly still a key factor in it.
MitoQ obviously comes into this because it’s stopping free radicals right at the source – in the mitochondria, where they’re being generated – and that’s where over 90% of free radicals come from. So, if you can keep those levels nice and even and you’re not letting it get out of control, then, when those cells do divide and reproduce to the next generation – you're not carrying this significant damage through with them. Again, it’s part of the bigger puzzle but it’s certainly one of the really important, key parts of the puzzle.
Q) Is there anything you’re hoping scientists will discover about cellular health in the next few years?
Will: There sure is. Other than perhaps figuring out a way to make hair grow again, I think there are some pretty major ones. Things like predicting what protein structures are going to be like by seeing the DNA or the amino acid sequence is going to be huge in terms of medicine and drug design regenerative medicine. Discovering or coming up with resistance-proof antibiotics could really make a massive difference to worldwide health burdens.
Immunotherapy advances – there are some really promising advances now for things like malaria vaccines: malaria kills millions of people a year. Basically, being able to use our own immune systems in order to reduce these health conditions. I think those are going to be huge things, coming up. When we get there exactly is hard to say – but that’s what I’m hoping for.
Q) What could MitoQ mean for the future of human health?
Will: I think MitoQ could be really important for the future of human health because it’s very effective at reducing that cellular stress. When you look at the key pillars of cellular health like stress, cellular aging, growth, repair, energy – that cell stress is the key one. You really need to make sure that doesn’t get out of control because, if it does, it has significant negative effects on those other pillars. If you can control it, then those other pillars like cellular aging are slowed down. Energy is improved, growth is optimized and there’s a huge amount of downstream effects that come from that.
Compared to a lot of medicines, MitoQ is a low-cost alternative. It’s not a medicine itself but compared to a lot of things that are out there, it’s low cost. It’s easy to take. It’s safe. So, there are a lot of people out there who could benefit from MitoQ for keeping that cell stress down, improv(ing) energy and those kinds of things. So, there are still a lot of people we can reach and really benefit with MitoQ. Hopefully, we can do that.
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