Muscle weakness seen in alcoholism linked to mitochondrial repair issues

Muscle weakness from long-term alcoholism may stem from an inability of mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells, to self-repair, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In research conducted with rats, scientists found evidence that chronic heavy alcohol use affects a gene involved in mitochondrial repair and muscle regeneration.

“The finding gives insight into why chronic heavy drinking often saps muscle strength and it could also lead to new targets for medication development,” said Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the NIH institute that funded the study.

The study is available online in the April issue of the Journal of Cell Biology. It was led by Dr. Gyorgy Hajnoczky, M.D., Ph.D., director of Thomas Jefferson University’s MitoCare Center, Philadelphia, and professor in the Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology.

Mitochondria are cellular structures that generate most of the energy needed by cells. Skeletal muscle constantly relies on mitochondria for power. When mitochondria become damaged, they can repair themselves through a process called mitochondrial fusion — joining with other mitochondria and exchanging material such as DNA.

Although well known in many other tissues, the current study is the first to show that mitochondria in skeletal muscle are capable of undergoing fusion as a repair mechanism. It had been thought that this type of mitochondrial self-repair was unlikely in the packed fibers of the skeletal muscle cells, as mitochondria have little opportunity to interact in the narrow space between the thread-like structures called myofilaments that make up muscle.

By tagging mitochondria in the skeletal tissue of rats with different colors, the researchers were able to observe the process in action and confirm that mitochondrial fusion occurs in muscle cells. They also identified a key protein in the process, mitofusin 1 (Mfn1) fusion proteins, and showed that chronic alcohol use interferes with the process.

In rats that were given an alcohol diet, Mfn1 levels decreased as much as 50 percent while other fusion proteins were unchanged. This decrease in Mfn1 was coupled with a dramatic decrease in mitochondrial fusion. When Mfn1 returned to normal, mitochondrial fusion did as well.

“That alcohol can have a specific effect on this one gene involved in mitochondrial fusion suggests that other environmental factors may also alter specifically mitochondrial fusion and repair,” said Dr. Hajnoczky. He also suggested that identifying the proteins involved in mitochondrial fusion may aid in drug development for alcohol-related muscle weakness.

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8 thoughts on “Muscle weakness seen in alcoholism linked to mitochondrial repair issues”

  1. This article intrigued me, I find it good to read about different articles about the negative effects of alcohol to see if there were other effects besides the usual liver damage, brain damage and increase in chances of cancer.

    This article shows that a prolonged use of alcohol will slowly damage a persons mitochondrial ability to generate energy thereby affecting the skeletal muscles of a persons body.

    I think alcohol in moderation isn’t a terrible idea after all red wine is good for the heart.

  2. An alcoholic is a person, while alcoholism is the illness. An alcoholic suffers from alcoholism. Alcoholism is a long-term (chronic) disease.
    It can have a big effect on both genders’ bodies. Women’s bodies, in general, process alcohol at a slower rate than men’s. When they drink similar amounts, women tend to feel the effects far more, even compared to a man of the same weight. Alcohol can affect fertility, put women at greater risk of breast cancer and increase some side-effects of the menopause.Men who regularly drink above the daily unit guidelines risk a whole host of health issues – from low energy and sexual difficulties in the short term, to heart disease and cancer in the long term.
    In short, alcohol has great effects on and in our bodies that will never be healthy. It’s a degenerating process that kills human from the inside out. One can see the alcohol misuse a person had at a young age because the symptoms and effects that shows later in life.

  3. This is a great topic to read about, alcohol has a negative effect on people lives and it affect their health in a very bad way and many people don’t seem to take this issue of alcoholism seriously. Drinking alcohol is lot of fun to some people while other people are using it to relieve stress when having problems,but effects of alcohol are more negative than having stress.Drinking alcohol is health risk like they said in article it harms the mitochondria which the skeletal muscles depend on for power and weakness in muscles results in pain.

  4. It is now put to us and shown to us that alcohol continues to destroy us internally.

    The joy the alcohol can be great and very pleasing but we should know that the joy comes in a cost, we give away our healths for little fun for those two or three days. Alcoholism is a great deal as now it starts to kill you where you do not see, and when you notice it will be to late to recover.

    The research continue to prove that too much alcohol in our systems is not good for us, and yet it is not the worst it can do than to affect us through the mitochondria. The mitochondria is the energy shop for our bodily energy. So if slow down the energy flowing in our system what will we be left with?

  5. The damage that alcohol does to a person’s body cannot be underestimated be it long long term or short effects it has on our thinking, emotions and body. Alcohol is a depressant, it disturbs the delicate chemical balance in the brain and interferes with the neurotransmitters which can lead short term effects such as insomnia, depression, aggression, anxiety,stress as well as alcohol poisoning which can lead to death. The long term effects include permanent brain damage, infertility, permanent liver damage, alcohol dependence and increased development of cancer. It is proven that drinking alcohol regularly can cause increased risk in having liver cancer, brain cancer,bowel cancer, mouth cancer… therefore it is important to be constantly aware of the harm alcohol can do to your body, do not use it as an escape from stress and if you do drink it ,remember to always drink in modesty.

  6. Alcohol is a drug. People are either to stubborn or just don’t know about long term alcohol effects. Alcohol is being abused more and more on a regular basis and the younger people each day. Although it is said alcohol in not for under 18’s, the amount of young children that are purchasing alcohol, whether it me in a club or bottle store is scary and increasing every minute. How do we as a species expect to grew stronger and smarter if we are physically drinking ourselves weaker by damaging our mitochondria, the power houses of our bodies. The use and abuse of alcohol in becoming a serious issue in today’s would and needs to be put under control.

  7. 14055563- Some studies have shown that alcohol may promote the existence of dangerous oxidative species within cells. Mitochondria assist in the defense of cells against such harmful species but they themselves are also affected. Alcohol puts the mitochondria under oxidative stress which causes them to become deficient. This may also affect mitochondrial fusion. Since mitochondria synthesize the majority of the ATP in our cells, which provides us with the energy we need to efficiently carry out cellular processes, it is understandable that alcohol would cause not only muscle weakness in people who suffer from alcohol dependency, but also many other problems. Drug development that in some way protects the mitochondria would certainly improve the lives of the people who suffer from alcoholism.

  8. Science showing yet again exactly how bad alcohol is and yet people chose to ignore the facts . With all the negative effects ,that has been proven to come with alcohol , one would think people would start to rethink the legalization of the selling of alcohol , or at least restrict the amount being sold to a costumer .

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