Dr Elena Palma, postdoctoral scientist working in the area of Alcohol Hepatotoxicity. See the Foundation's short film at: http://youtu.be/WArsDxiH1gk to hear Elena talking about her work
Much of the Foundation's research in this area has been aimed at developing a better understanding of the injury to the liver caused by binge drinking and other acute ‘insults’ which can lead to devastating consequences.
Among the components of each individual cell in the body, the mitochondrion is recognised as an important intracellular target for the damaging effects of alcohol. However, the impact of alcohol on the structure of mitochondria and how this affects their functionality remains unknown.
Mitochondria are essential hubs for the cell, involved in energy conversion, regulation of signalling cascades and apoptosis. Their many different functions are reflected in their complex structure and growing evidence indicates that the morphology and regulation of mitochondrial shape are essential for cellular function. New mitochondria-shaping proteins continue to be discovered and alterations in some of these proteins have been linked to different human pathologies.
It has been shown that one of the earliest effects of chronic alcohol consumption on liver cells is an alteration in mitochondria structure. What is not well understood is the impact of alcohol on mitochondrial dynamics in terms of fusion and fission and how this affects mitochondrial morphology and functionality.
The specific aims of this Group are:-
1. To develop an in vitro model (human hepatoma/hepatocyte culture) of alcohol-mediated cell damage
2. To develop assays to analyse mitochndrial alterations in terms of morphology and function
3. To analyse the impact of alcohol on mitochondrial shape, dynamics and functionality
4. To identify early mitochondrial biomarkers of alcohol-induced liver injury