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Mitochondria are the power plants of cells, an essential energy producing cellular component, found in every organism with cells that contain a nucleus.  Mitochondria are found in mammals, fish, trees, plants, insects but not in viruses or bacteria.  The structure of these round or oval shaped mitochondria is complex with a double cell membrane with multiple infoldings of the inner membrane that have many critical cellular functions.  Not only do they convert energy from nutrients (sugars, proteins, fats)  to ATP, the universal cellular energy unit, they also function in an important regulatory manner,  signaling programmed cell death,  steroid hormone biosynthesis, calcium, copper, and iron homeostasis, and they indirectly affect cell replication. About 1000 to 1500  proteins are imported into the mitochondria to carry out these functions thus mitochondria in different organ cells have different levels of these proteins.  Mitochondria have their own DNA and replicate within the cell. The DNA in mitochondria, however, are not protected by the nucleus and do not have their own DNA repair mechanisms thus are more vulnerable to DNA damage.

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