Caffeine has been linked to lower risks for multiple chronic diseases, including type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
But why caffeine have these protective effects has been unclear.
A study now shows that caffeine promotes the movement of a regulatory protein into mitochondria, enhancing their function and protecting cardiovascular cells from damage.
The protective effect could be reached at a concentration equivalent to drinking four cups of coffee.
Previously, researchers have shown that at higher levels, caffeine improved the functional capacity of endothelial cells.
The cells could line the interior of blood vessels, and the effect involved mitochondria, the cell’s energy powerhouses.
In the current study, the team 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.
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 fibers.
All of these are crucial for repair of heart muscle after a heart attack.
The researchers found that caffeine induced the movement of p27 into mitochondria, setting off this beneficial chain of events, and did so at a concentration that is reached in humans by drinking four cups of coffee.
The team suggests that these results could lead to better strategies for protecting heart muscle from damage, including consideration of coffee consumption or caffeine as an additional dietary factor in older people.
Furthermore, enhancing mitochondrial p27 could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy not only in cardiovascular diseases but also in improving health life span.
The study is published in PLOS Biology.
Copyright © 2018 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.
News source: PLOS.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is for illustrative purposes only.