Hypoxia as a Therapy for Mitochondrial Disease

Isha Jain, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Defects in the mitochondrial respiratory chain (RC) underlie a spectrum of human conditions, ranging from devastating inborn errors of metabolism to aging. We performed a genome-wide Cas9-mediated screen to identify factors that are protective during RC inhibition. Our results highlight the hypoxia response, an endogenous program evolved to adapt to limited oxygen availability. Genetic or small-molecule activation of the hypoxia response is protective against mitochondrial toxicity in cultured cells and zebrafish models. Chronic hypoxia leads to a marked improvement in survival, body weight, body temperature, behavior, neuropathology and disease biomarkers in a genetic mouse model of Leigh syndrome, the most common pediatric manifestation of mitochondrial disease. Further preclinical studies are required to assess whether hypoxic exposure can be developed into a safe and effective treatment for human diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction.

Abstract Author(s): I.H. Jain, L. Zazzeron, R. Goli, K. Alexa, S. Schatzman-Bone, H. Dhillon, F. Zhang, W. Goessling, W.M. Zapol, V.K. Mootha