February 25, 2016
By Jennifer Couzin-Frankel
For most creatures, oxygen is life. But biology is complicated, and researchers hoping to treat diseases in which our cells' energy-providing machinery is faulty now suggest the opposite may also be true: Depriving cells of oxygen could be a boon to health. The unexpected idea has been tested only in cells and animals so far, but some scientists are already considering whether lowering oxygen levels might treat certain rare but deadly conditions.
The strategy—whose mechanisms are not fully understood—emerged from a new study of mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of the cell. When these organelles falter and can’t produce enough energy, the organism they support can be in trouble. Certain rare and devastating diseases, for example, are caused by mutations in the DNA harbored by mitochondria or the nuclear DNA. [read more]