Last updated June 22, 2018 at 1:21 pm
Caffeine protects the heart with help from mitochondria.
Now we can say, with our hands on our hearts, that coffee is good for us. And not just one.
Scientists have known for some time that caffeine consumption is associated with lower risks for multiple diseases, including heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes, but they haven’t been exactly sure how and why.
Now a new German study using mice has shown that caffeine promotes the movement of a regulatory protein into mitochondria, enhancing their function and protecting cardiovascular cells from damage.
A team led by Judith Haendeler and Joachim Altschmied from Heinrich-Heine-University in Duesseldorf found that the protective effect was reached at a concentration equivalent to consumption of four cups of coffee.
The researchers have previously shown that at such physiologically relevant concentrations caffeine improves the functional capacity of endothelial cells, which line the interior of blood vessels, and that the effect involves mitochondria, the cell’s energy powerhouses.
In their most recent study, they showed that a protein called p27, known mainly as an inhibitor of the cell cycle, was present in mitochondria in the major cell types of the heart.
Migration of endothelial cells
In these cells, mitochondrial p27 promoted migration of endothelial cells, protected heart muscle cells from cell death, and triggered the conversion of fibroblasts into cells containing contractile fibres — all crucial for repair of heart muscle after myocardial infarction.
Caffeine induces the movement of p27 into mitochondria, setting off this beneficial chain of events, and does so at a concentration that is reached in humans by drinking four cups of coffee.
“Our results indicate a new mode of action for caffeine, one that promotes protection and repair of heart muscle through the action of mitochondrial p27,” Haendeler said.
“These results should lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in the elderly population.”
The paper published in PLOS Biology.