Mitochondrial disease, or 'mito', is the term given to a group of medical disorders caused by mutations in mitochondria, the tiny organelles that are present in nearly every cell in our bodies and which generate about 90% of the energy we need to live. Cells cannot function properly without healthy mitochondria, so when they fail the consequences can be serious and wide-ranging.
Mitochondrial diseases affect people in multiple ways, depending on which cells are affected. This can make the condition hard to diagnose, as symptoms often resemble those of other serious illnesses. For example, a person with mitochondrial disease may suffer from seizures, fatigue, vision and hearing loss, cognitive disabilities, respiratory problems or poor growth. Any of the body's organs and systems can be affected including the brain, heart, lungs, gut, liver and skin. For more information about this see our list of the different types of mitochondrial syndromes.
Is there a cure?
There is currently no cure for mitochondrial disease. However, important steps have been made to make diagnosis faster, easier and less invasive to the patient, and some promising research into effective treatments is underway. The more we learn about mitochondrial disease the closer we will be to one day finding a cure.
Watch our video explainer narrated by Bill Nighy