Feature

Mitochondria Gone Bad

Problems in the cell’s energy factories power new ideas on disease and aging

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12:14pm, February 13, 2009

The patient, known as only “MBM,” was just 7 years old the first time doctors saw her. She had always been prone to night sweats, but now excessive perspiration was forcing her to change clothes several times a day. She was endlessly thirsty, fatigued and losing weight despite a voracious appetite. A dozen years later, at age 19, doctors checked her into a hospital, thinking she had some kind of unusual metabolic condition. After aggressive treatment with drugs, her symptoms improved, but only for a short time, and the next year surgeons removed most of her thyroid. When she was 35 — gaunt, weak and losing hair — doctors began searching every tissue of her body for a diagnosis.

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