Mitochondria: An energy explanation for autism

People with autism have more mutations than others do in both mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA that affects mitochondrial function.

Illustration by Mengxin Li

Almost every human cell teems with a potpourri of tiny powerhouses: mitochondria. Up to thousands of them. These organelles use oxygen to convert the nutrients from the food you eat into a form of energy the body can use. The brain consumes a lot of this energy — about 20 percent. Could changes in mitochondria, then, affect how the brain functions and contribute to autism? Read the related article, Meet the ‘mitomaniacs’ who say mitochondria matter in autism.