Inside each cell of every complex organism there are structures known as mitochondria. The 19th century scientists who first observed them thought they were bacteria which had somehow invaded the cells they were studying. We now understand that mitochondria take components from the food we eat and convert them into energy.
Mitochondria are essential for complex life, but as the components that run our metabolisms they can also be responsible for a range of diseases – and they probably play a role in how we age. The DNA in mitochondria is only passed down the maternal line. This means it can be used to trace population movements deep into human history, even back to an ancestor we all share: mitochondrial Eve.
Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at the University of Cambridge
NERC Independent Research Fellow at University College London
Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London
Producer Luke Mulhall