Well, people already thought that problems with mitochondrial DNA were linked to aging diseases like Alzheimers before I ever started my PhD. Mitochondrial DNA damage stops the mitochondria being able to do their job properly, so they can’t produce energy for the cells they’re in to do their jobs properly. This can cause cells to age prematurely, or die, which can cause aging diseases if it happens in enough cells.
My job is looking at how these deletions spread to different cells, to work out more about how they cause these diseases. I also find the specific DNA deletions from individual patients, which allows me to see if the size of the deletion or the specific genes deleted make any difference to how the deletion spreads or what type and severity of illness they cause. Hopefully if we can understand these things, we’ll be onestep closer to finding cures for aging diseases! 🙂