Getting Super Targeted On Cellular Dysfunction
World’s first mitochondria-targeted supplement is changing attitudes to cell health
In the 1990s at New Zealand’s University of Otago, two scientists – the biochemist Robin Smith and mitochondrial specialist Michael Murphy – were studying mitochondria and trying to understand why antioxidant supplements, like CoQ10, were proving to be ineffective in helping and supporting certain health issues.
What they discovered was that regular CoQ10 supplements were too big to penetrate the very selective mitochondrial wall and whilst these supplements got into the bloodstream, they were unable to get into the mitochondria itself.
The scientists set about trying to create molecules that could accumulate directly inside the mitochondria and in doing so, create a more effective and powerful antioxidant. The result of this research was a remarkable innovation: a shortened version of CoQ10 given a positive charge to enable it to be drawn inside the body of the negatively charged mitochondria, providing a payload of free radical defense right where it was needed. In 2013, this scientific breakthrough was made available as a health supplement called MitoQ – the world’s first mitochondria-targeted antioxidant.
Why Your Mitochondria Are Important
Every human is made up of trillions of cells and inside nearly all of them are mitochondria. They combine the food we eat and the air we breathe to generate the energy that cells need to operate in our heart, brain, liver, lungs, and every part of the body. Mitochondria act as cellular power plants and are at the core of everything our body does to keep us healthy and alive. If mitochondria are healthy and functioning optimally, our bodies will be too. However, if they’re unhealthy, they can’t supply cells with the energy they need. When mitochondria slow down, so does our power supply, and so do we.
Why Your Mitochondria Need CoQ10
CoQ10 is an enzyme that is made deep inside the mitochondria, to support the energy production process and to help neutralize free radicals. Age, lifestyle factors and many health conditions can cause the mitochondria to make less CoQ10, exposing them to free radical damage and leading to oxidative stress.
How Does MitoQ Help?
By delivering CoQ10 directly into the mitochondria where it is made by the body, MitoQ is able to support the mitochondrial free radical defense system, thus helping to reduce the risk of free radical leakage into the cell, helping to protect the equipment from potential damage and prolonging cell life.
MitoQ is one of the most studied mitochondrial-targeted CoQ10 antioxidants. More than $60 million of independent research and over 350 peer-reviewed articles have been published, testing MitoQ across a range of health-related applications.
Research has shown that after oral administration, MitoQ rapidly accumulates in mitochondria-rich tissue such as the heart, brain, skeletal muscle, liver and kidneys, helping guard against oxidative stress and maintaining healthy function and performance.
Once back to their best, mitochondria can charge our cells so we can power through life and achieve our personal best, whatever that is.
Read the video transcript here:
Terry: I have a great deal of passion about mitochondria and neurodegeneration. Do you want to add just a few comments as to why mitochondria are so important?
Mito Q: Yeah. Look, the mitochondria, which are the little power packs of the cell, essentially, are really important for neurodegenerative conditions, simply because if they’re not working properly, well they’re delivering enough energy to the neuron to actually make it work properly. But if they’re also not working properly, they start to spill out a whole bunch of free radicals. When that happens, you’re damaging the neurons in the cells.
Terry: Correct. Now, MitoQ, which we’ll get into a little bit more, you’ve developed that. What has the research shown with what MitoQ can do for mitochondria?
Mito Q: So, specifically what we’ve done is we’ve managed a way to get antioxidants into mitochondria, and that’s something that hasn’t been done before. What happens when you do that is it just, I guess, puts the mitochondria in a much better place. It’s like putting good oil in a god engine; it just runs better, it’s more efficient, and doesn’t spill so many free radicals. So, that’s the breakthrough that we’ve made, essentially, is getting an antioxidant into these core parts of the cells.
Terry: So, for the tribe that’s listening, imagine the difference between running your vehicle and having a lot of smoke coming out of your tailpipe versus an engine that doesn’t have a lot of oil and particulate matter coming out of the tailpipe. You know which engine’s in better shape. So, what you’re telling us is that the MitoQ is improving the efficiency. Does it also improve the number of the mitochondria? Does it help with that at all?
Mito Q: Yeah. So, it’s like when we’re young, when we’re healthy, our mitochondria are working really well and they increase when we need them to increase in terms of numbers. They run efficiently. As we get older and they don’t work so well, then they don’t increase numbers as much as we would like them too perhaps, or they’re just not operating as well as they could. So, the secret is if we can get them running well, then it reduces all that particulate matter that would come out of an engine which is not running efficiently.
Terry: Okay, perfectly. Now, let’s step back for a moment and tell us who you are, what your professional background is, and how you got down this path with mitochondria and MitoQ.
Mito Q: So, Terry, I’m a pharmacist by trade. Sadly, it’s been about 30 years, I think, since I picked up my first textbook, so that seems to have gone really quickly. But I’m a pharmacist that got bitten with the technology bug. Back when I started, that was computers and it shifted to the Internet. I started an online pharmacy in New Zealand, one of the first people to do that. From there, we’ve been one of the first group that brought robotics into pharmacy in New Zealand. So, it’s just been, really, just looking at technology and that really spins my wheels. I guess being a pharmacist, I’ve never been too far away from biology. So, what this breakthrough is right in my wheelhouse in terms of biotechnology. I’ve been working with the company now for seven years and just really, really excited about what’s been developed. I think they didn’t even realize what they developed when they developed it, but over the past 10, 15 years, the amount of research that’s coming through is showing this is quite a special compound that could have quite a profound effect on human health.
Terry: So, someone else invented the molecule, but you saw its potential. So, like, “Oh my gosh, this could really transform the diseases that are impacted by dysfunctional mitochondria”?
Mito Q: Yeah. Look, I’d love to say I’m the guy that came up with the idea, because it’s pretty clever. The genesis of the idea, if you will, is that they were looking… it was a biochemist and a chemist, and they were looking at why regular antioxidants don’t really have much of an impact on health conditions. They thought, “Well, mitochondria are the place where free radicals are generated. Let’s see if we can get an antioxidant into the mitochondria and see what happens.” It turns out it’s not that antioxidants don’t work; it’s just that they’ve got to get to the right place in the cell, and that’s what these guys managed to do.
Terry: Excellent. Now, this is different than the usual CoQ10 that [inaudible 00:04:34] are many different varieties that are out there. Can you tell me what’s different?
Mito Q: Yeah, so regular CoQ10 is one of the primary antioxidants in mitochondria. It’s involved in being an antioxidant, but it’s also involved in the process of making energy through the electron transport chain. It’s actually made inside the mitochondria, because it’s a really big, oily molecule that’s designed to be made and then slip into the membrane and sit there. So, regular CoQ10, when you swallow it, it has a really tough job of crossing all those membranes to actually get to the mitochondria. So, that’s the challenge that we’ve solved, essentially. If you imagine… not sure you can see my hands here, but CoQ10 is a big molecule. What these guys did was they shortened it a wee bit, which means it can get through the membranes, and then they put a positive charge on it. Because mitochondria are negatively charged, the positive and negative magnetic attraction means that MitoQ not only gets through the membranes but actually it’s drawn into the mitochondria. That’s the [inaudible 00:05:39].
Terry: Perfect. That makes a huge difference. What many people don’t understand is the supplements that we take, the question is, what gets into your bloodstream, what gets into your cells, what gets into your brain? There are a lot of steps along that that either make that job easier or more difficult. So, how have the science been able to document that the MitoQ is effectively getting into cells, into our mitochondria?
Mito Q: It’d be some fancy equations which talk about, I could look it up, membrane potential differences essentially. So, you can predict if there’s, I guess, a high-charged part of the cell over here and not so much here that a product will cross that membrane relating to how much charge there is. They knew theoretically it was, and then what they did in the early days is they actually radio labeled it. So, they put a little bit of, what’s it, a hydrogen atom that has a radioactive content, and they actually just measured how much went into the mitochondria. That’s when they confirmed that what they thought was going to happen did happen.
Terry: Very exciting. Very exciting. Now, what kind of diseases will MitoQ impact?
Mito Q: So, mitochondria are in every single cell in our body, so it actually has quite an impact. There’s, I think, up to 200 health conditions now that are documented that are related to mitochondrial dysfunction and of the bigger ones, like diabetes and heart disease and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, those sorts of things. But certainly anything with mitochondrial dysfunction associated with it will have some benefit from MitoQ, and that turns out to be MS as well.
Terry: Again, for everyone on the tribe, think about anything involving your brain. So, mental health issues, post-concussive symptoms, chronic headaches, migraine, cognitive decline. I would predict all of those will be impacted. Macular degeneration. We have like 50 million folks that have some sort of vision issues there. That would likely be impacted. Diabetes, heart disease. So, I could certainly see how this could be very helpful. I think if everyone who’s taking coenzyme Q, who’s on statins because their cardiologist had said you got to take both, what you’re telling me is that probably the MitoQ would be a more effective support for that person who’s been told they need to stay on Restatin, but they’re afraid of the harm of the statin. [inaudible 00:08:26] taking CoQ but they’d probably do better if they switched to MitoQ.
Mito Q: Yeah, 100%. That’s an area of active research that’s happening right now just to understand exactly how much MitoQ is in that sort of area.
Terry: Now, do you have a personal story with MitoQ?
Mito Q: I’ve got Crohn’s disease. It’s an autoimmune condition, and so certainly it helps me with the fatigue associated with the condition, certainly. There is, actually some research showing that there is an anti-inflammatory effect on the gut, just because when your mitochondria are playing up and they are spilling lots of free radicals into your cell and it’s a chronic thing, then what you shift is from oxidative stress through inflammation. So, if we can get to the heart of the matter, so to speak, with the mitochondrion, just lower that level of free radical insult on the cell, then there is benefit. There is a clinical trial happening for Crohn’s shortly in Scotland to evaluate how much MitoQ does help.
But I think my story, really, comes from more of a looking at and understanding the technology and understanding the profound effect it can have on people. I’m, as a pharmacist, very driven about helping people. This particular platform is something that does have quite a meaningful impact. This is quite dear to my heart, just because when we launched MitoQ, coincidentally a month after we launched, a mouse model of study of MS came out. It showed that the mice got up walking again and it had quite a profound impact on them. That, actually, got some reasonably-
Terry: [inaudible 00:10:18].
Mito Q: Yeah. So, we got some reasonably good media coverage on that. We got a lot of sales from people who were interested who had MS. Everything went quiet for about three months, and then all of a sudden all these chat groups kept popping up, saying, “Look, I’m having this benefit. I’m having this benefit.” So, we’ve got some quite humbling stories of how it’s helped. It doesn’t help everybody, but it’s absolutely worth trying.
Terry: Again, to my tribe, I wouldn’t view MitoQ as a magic bullet that’s going to fix everything, but it’s another item in your toolbox as you address and improve the quality of your diet, as you address and improve your stress-reducing practices, and as you address, improve your mobility. Adding more support for your mitochondria will make all of those interventions more effective. We’re guilty of wanting the convenience of a magic pill that let us continue our crappy diet and lifestyle. MitoQ’s not that, but it can be an adjunct to help make your improved diet and lifestyle even more effective.
Mito Q: We like to think of it as kind of like a little base layer, basically. It just gives you a bit more energy and get you slightly more results on all the activities you’re doing to help your health.
Terry: So, let’s say I get my MitoQ; is there a standard dose that everyone takes, or does this need to be individualized?
Mito Q: Most people just take two capsules a day, which is 10 milligrams. It’s quite a low dose. What we do is we suggest take 10 milligrams, see how you’re going. So, that’s two capsules in the morning. If you can, bump it up to four capsules in the morning. A lot of people do see a little bit extra benefit from that. And then we’ve got some people who take an extra dose at around about 2:00 or 3:00 just to deal with getting a bit… just that energy to keep going through the day, and that helps. So, anything from 10 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon, to 20 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon. That’s the sort of feedback we get from people that’s effective.
Terry: Do we take it with food? Do we take it on an empty stomach? What’s the plan there?
Mito Q: Yeah, so, on an empty stomach. Typically we say, look, have it next to your bed and take it upon waking. Have your breakfast, jump in the shower, whatever you do, but basically have breakfast about a half an hour later. That just means the absorption’s optimal. But if you do forget that, then… I mean, I take mine with breakfast some mornings because I’ve forgotten to take it. That’s okay, but you’ll get best benefit on an empty stomach.
Terry: Now, in general, I tell folks when we try a new supplement, I suggest that they try it for 100 days and if you aren’t clear, if I’m not sure, stop it. Sometimes, if you take it for 100 days and you stop something, like, “Oh, wait a minute. I did feel a whole lot better.” So, how long would people normally see before you just plan [inaudible 00:13:41] things are improving?
Mito Q: I love your philosophy, because you do need around three months to actually get a sense of how it integrates into your body. What you’re doing is you’re activating your mitochondria, but then your body’s got to do something with that energy, so to speak. I actually experienced in my first month of taking it a little bit of tiredness, which didn’t make sense to me, because here was this supplement that was meant to be giving me some energy. What am I doing feeling a little more tired? But then what happened is the next month is I had over-the-top energy, and then I settled down into the new normal. It felt really good, because I remembered what it felt like when I had more energy, so it felt good. So, it’s definitely worth giving it a reasonable shot, just so your body’s got the time to integrate it properly.
Terry: Now, again, to the tribe, I think in general it’s very helpful to try and make this as much of a little mini experiment for yourself. Write out in your little journal what’s the symptom that you used to decide this was helpful or not. So, more energy to grocery shop or cook supper or walk around the block. Write something down, describe that symptom, and then commit to the intervention you’re going to do for 100 days. Put a note on your calendar that you’re going to re-evaluate that symptom. Sometimes at the end of the 100 days, you’re like, “Well, shit. It didn’t change. I’m feeling cranky.” Go ahead and stop it. Because what happens sometimes is our energy improves slowly, we accommodate that as the new normal, and I think, “Nothing’s really changed.” But when I stop my supplement, I realize, “Whoop, wait a minute. I’m not quite as good. It was making a difference.” I resume that supplement, and now it’s much more clear that, “Nope, wait a minute. It was helping.”
Mito Q: Yeah, absolutely.
Terry: Because we do rapidly accommodate to our new normals, which is good, because that can help us maintain our resilience. But as we recover, we begin to think that we always had enough energy to walk around the block. We have forgotten that, three months ago, I had to take a break halfway around the block to wait a few moments before I could finish getting all the way home. So, it’s really helpful. Identify your symptom. Please write it out so you know what the state of that current symptom is, and then you can have a more objective look back at your 100 days. Let’s see. The best time of day; did we cover that? It’s mostly morning?
Mito Q: It is the morning. Initially when we started taking MitoQ, we were taking it morning and night. What we were finding was the team were waking up at 3:00 in the morning, ready to go to work again. It’s almost like we’re getting through everything we needed to get through during our sleep, just a lot faster and so raring to go. So, we quickly realized that’s not really the way to go, because you do need your sleep and rest. In the morning just means that if you are sensitive to wakefulness it will-
Terry: So, if you happen to be a night shift worker, you’ll be taking it at your awakening time, whatever time of day that is.
Mito Q: Yeah, definitely. It’s quite stressful on the body, too, night shift, so actually helping manage that stress in your cells with MitoQ would be quite sensible.
Terry: Would be very good. Now, you’d mentioned the kinds of symptoms that people have been reporting that have been improved by MitoQ. Do you want to give us a quick rundown on that?
Mito Q: Yeah. Everybody’s different, because everybody’s got their different levels of mitochondrial function and dysfunction in different areas of the body. In terms of, specifically, for MS, we’ve certainly found that people just don’t get quite as fatigued as easily. We’ve had people that have had some improvement in limb movement. Certainly in terms of vision helping and the cog fog associated with MS improvement. So, it’s really so individual as the response. It’s really just taking it and then observe what happens, and you’ll get a sense fairly quickly as to whether it’s helping you or not.
Terry: 100 days.
Mito Q: 100 days.
Terry: 100 days. I really think it’s very helpful to have 100 days for any of your interventions before you decide that it wasn’t helpful to you. That way, you’ve given it a reasonable trial. So, in your bottles, do they come in 100-day supply? Is it a 30-day supply?
Mito Q: Yeah, it’s a 30-day supply, but we have a triple pack. So, that’s really what you want to start with and give that a go.
Terry: So, everyone, 90 days is okay. I think 90 days is close enough to 100 days. I’m fine with that. But I’d definitely give it the 90 days before you make your determination this is either working or not working. What’s next? What’s in the future for MitoQ?
Mito Q: Well, we’re excited. We’re working with a MS research center in Oregon. Around about two years ago, they contacted us, because they have a clinic and three of their patients had a spontaneous remission of their leg edema. This was unusual, and so they basically did a little bit of investigation and found that all three were on MitoQ. So, they reached out and we sent them a few more samples. They then applied for funding, and so we’ve got a clinical trial happening right now for MitoQ with MS. Primary outcome is fatigue, but they’re looking at, I guess, the whole gamut. So, that’s something which we’ll hopefully finish in 2020, and we’ll see some data in 2021.
But right now, they had some quite remarkable research out of Colorado University from a vascular aging laboratory looking at how well our blood vessels age as we get older. They found after six weeks of supplementation for people aged 60 to 80 that their arteries looked like someone 20 years younger. So, that’s all to do with mitochondrial dysfunction and specifically mitochondrial dysfunction in the lining of the blood vessels. We’re able to improve that, and that has a number of effects, but it basically means less free radicals interacting with nitric oxide, which is the natural molecule that the body uses to relax its blood vessel. But also it improves the elasticity of the arteries as well. So, showed some quite big improvements. Right now, I think there’s around 30 clinical trials that are either happening or being planned for MitoQ in a whole different bunch of conditions, and so that’s really the focus for the next couple of years.
Terry: Well, when you come out, we should have a quick chat. We’ll be launching another trial comparing diet and lifestyle. I would be open to hearing you guys pitch including MitoQ in the diet and lifestyle arm.
Mito Q: We’d love that opportunity.
Terry: Let’s be sure that we find some time to chat about that, because, as we know, mitochondria are, I think, the huge driver in fixed disability. I’d sure like to stop that for folks. Okay, now, I want to be sure that we’ve covered… are there any other key points that we haven’t covered with the MitoQ story that we want to get in?
Mito Q: Yeah. Look, I think it’s covered. I mean, it’s a molecule which no one knows about, so it’s a best-kept secret, if you will, that we’re slowly pushing out to the world, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about it. We’ve been working now for seven years. So, the actual concept and product itself was discovered nearly 20 years ago. So, it’s not a new kid on the block; we’ve certainly spent a lot of time researching it. It’s growing really quickly just through word of mouth and people understanding it. Right now, there just seems to be a wave of interest in mitochondria. I think when I came to the States seven years ago to talk with doctors about mitochondria, there was some awareness of it, but now everybody I speak to understands that they’re the headquarters with our health. My personal mission is to raise awareness of our mitochondria and why you need to look after them. If you look after them, they can look after you, and I think that’s just becoming more and more evident as time goes on.
Terry: It’s so exciting. It’s exciting to me that there’s much more appreciation for cellular health, cellular nutrition, and taking care of our mitochondria, and taking care of our microbiome, which you see over my shoulder. 10 years ago, as I was having this conversation, my physician colleagues really thought I was this tremendous oddity being focused on mitochondria, being focused on nutrition, and now my basic science colleagues are knocking on my door asking if I still have samples in the freezer that they’d like to help analyze.
Mito Q: I mean, if you-
Terry: [inaudible 00:23:41] times.
Mito Q: Our cells have two jobs. One is to do the task, whether it’s your heart beating, it’s beating. The other job they need to do is things breakdown, so they need to repair and maintain themselves. Our mitochondria naturally, even if we’re healthy, decline in function by 10% a decade after our 30s. So, after we get to 50 is when we actually start to feel a little pain associated with that, because we’re not quite as fit as we were and active and had that energy. Really what’s happening in a cellular level is that that cell has to make a decision: do I keep doing the main thing, or do I do some repair and maintenance? What happens as we get older is it really’s got to say, “Look, I’ve got to keep doing the main thing,” and that repair and maintenance doesn’t happen quite as much. That’s kind of why things start to breakdown and why we accumulate conditions as we age.
So, this is the beauty of this product, is that it boosts the energy of the mitochondria, and then it allows the cell to go on and do what it does naturally, which is actually repair and maintain itself. It just gives it that extra little energy, and like you say, it’s not the cure-all, but what it’s doing is just allowing the body to do a little bit more with what it’s got. It means a little less fatigue or it means that you get to the mailbox or you can go for a run. That’s what it’s supporting you and what it’s doing.
Terry: As part of a comprehensive diet and lifestyle program, what we’re trying to do with the protocol, with some of the products we talk about everyone is we’re trying to youthen you. We’re trying to slow down the aging process. There’s every reason for us to have the goal of healthy aging. I want to have my brain in really great shape in my 70s, which is coming up more quickly than I anticipated, and then in my 80s, 90s, and 100-plus. I want a clear brain, I want a strong body, and I think we all to do.
We want to be able to play Scrabble and cards and chess with our kids and our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, and we’d like to be able to play a little soccer, walk the dog, play in the backyard in our 70s, 80s, 90s, and 100-plus. To do that, it means you’re not eating sugar, you’re eating these radical things known as vegetables, and that I have some sort of stress-reducing practice, that I’m still moving my body, and I think some very thoughtful, targeted supplements like MitoQ can be a very helpful part of your strategy for optimal aging, maturing, and looking steadily younger and feeling steadily healthier and more robust.
Mito Q: Absolutely. I like to describe it to people. If we went back 100,000 years ago on the savanna, we didn’t have much sugar. It might have been one teaspoon a week or whatever it was. It wasn’t a lot of sugar. We were exercising a lot. We were probably fasting every other day or [crosstalk 00:26:41]-
Terry: Yeah, [inaudible 00:26:41] of intermittent activity.
Mito Q: Yeah, exactly. [inaudible 00:26:46] get in a time machine and put ourselves into what we’ve got now, which is abundant food, abundant sugar, it’s everywhere, we’re more sedentary, this is not what our mitochondria are used to do doing. So, really, they thrive when we exercise. They thrive when we don’t bombast them with fuel like sugar. If we can consciously do that now, which is exactly what you were saying around the sugar and the exercising, we’re setting ourselves up for aging the best that we can.
MITOQ CEO GREG MACPHERSON BIO
Greg Macpherson is the Chief Executive Officer of MitoQ Ltd, the breakthrough mitochondria-targeting supplement company. He completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy at New Zealand’s University of Otago School of Medicine in 1992, and since then has been the owner and director of a number of start-up businesses.
These include New Zealand’s largest residential care services pharmacy, New Zealand’s first robotic dispensing laboratory, a pharmaceutical wholesaling company, a software development company. He has also been a partner and board member of a pharmacy chain associated with one of New Zealand’s leading retailers.
Greg is currently a founding shareholder and director of Pharmacy Direct, New Zealand’s foremost online pharmacy and CEO of MitoQ Ltd. Throughout Greg’s career his core focus has been taking new technologies and platforms and integrating them into the health sector to assist people to live healthier lives.