Brain’s Dumped DNA May Lead to Stress, Depression

Lancashire, UK

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New research suggests genetic material from the mitochondria can trigger an immune response throughout the body

Humans and other mammals react to stressful situations through a series of well-orchestrated evolutionary adaptations. When faced with a predator looking for its next meal, or with worry of losing a job, our bodies release a cascade of stress hormones. Our heart rate spikes, breath quickens, muscles tense up and beads of sweat appear.

This so-called “fight-or-flight” response served our ancestors well, but its continual activation in our modern-day lives comes with a cost. Scientists are starting to realize stress often exacerbates several diseases, including depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS and asthma. One theory is hoping to explain the link between stress and such widespread havoc by laying the blame on an unexpected source — the microscopic powerhouses inside each cell.
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Senior Member
United States, New Hampshire
Other studies in the past few years have linked mitochondrial dysfunction to schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and cancer—all problems where inflammation is also known to occur, Picard notes.

But how was this inflammation triggered by mitochondrial DNA leaking out of cells? A 2010 Nature paper provided the answer: In it researchers demonstrated the way mitochondrial DNA, when released into the blood after an injury, mobilized a pro-inflammatory immune response.

Because of mitochondria’s bacterial origin and its circular DNA structure, immune cells think it’s a foreign invader. When circulating mitochondrial DNA binds to a particular receptor, TLR9, on immune cells, they respond as if they were reacting to a foreign invader such as a flu virus or an infected wound.

The immune cells release chemicals called cytokines telling other white blood cells they need to report for duty at sites of infection, inflammation or trauma.
To demonstrate psychological stress can cause mitochondrial DNA to be released by cells, Picard and his team devised a quick stress test.

They asked 50 otherwise healthy men and women to deliver a quick speech defending themselves against a false accusation on camera. Afterward the researchers took blood samples from the participants and compared them with blood taken immediately before they were stressed.

Even though the stressful task only lasted a total of five minutes, the scientists found participants’ serum circulating mitochondrial DNA levels more than doubled 30 minutes after the test.
I now wonder if physical activity or psychological stress, at least in ME/CFS, causes increased mitochondrial damage and higher levels of mitochondrial DNA. Triggering the immune system, flu-like symptoms, fatigue and PEM?

This paper seems to be focused on psychological stress causing damaged mitochondria and their DNA to leak causing immune system activation.

I think there are many things though that can damage the mitochondria and cause their DNA to leak. Like oxidative stress and toxins, etc.

This paper might explain why high dose BCAA's have completely stopped the flu-like flares I use to get, for over 2 1/2 months now. Even though I have been much, much more active.

BCAA's feed the krebs cycle in the mitochondria after the pyruvate dehydrogenase enzyme(PDH). PDH is the enzyme Fluge and Mella found to be inhibited in ME/CFS.

Slowing the krebs cycle and reducing the amount of energy (ATP) the mitochondria make. BCAA's bypass PDH, feeding the krebs cycle and therefore allowing more ATP(energy) to be made.

Improving mitochondrial function,I think, might slow the death of mitochondria and lower the amount of mitochondrial DNA triggering the immune system. Possibly stopping my flu-like flares.

Very interesting article. link
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Southern California
In 2010 testing done at Acumen Labs by Sarah Myhill ("Cell-free DNA in blood plasma") showed quite elevated cell-free dna in blood plasma for me: the reference range was up to 9.5, and mine was 22.7 - "highly significant" (over the top of the highest range).

The test says this:
Most of the cell-free DNA present in blood plasma is associated with cell degradation. Very low levels are present in healthy people and increases are associated with serious illnesses such as malignancy, stroke, autoimmune diseases, severe infections and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.