The spinach-eating cartoon character Popeye has much to teach us, new research from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet shows. The muscles'cellular power plants - the mitochondria - are boosted by nitrate, a substance found in abundance in vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and beetroot. "The mitochondria play a key role in cellular metabolism,"says Professor Eddie Weitzberg, who is heading the study with Professor Jon Lundberg. "Improved mitochondrial function probably has many positive effects on the body, and could explain some of the health benefits of vegetables.

In the United Kingdom a new £5.8 million research centre is to be set up that will continue research the MDC has funded in Newcastle over the past 11 years. This research led by Professor Doug Turnbull involves a type of IVF to prevent mitochondrial diseases being passed from mother to child. This technique has proven successful in the laboratory but further research is required before it can be tested in a clinical trial. With this fund the new Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research will allow the researchers to take this research forward.

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The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) and its counterpart from Italy, MITOCON, have entered into a collaborative relationship that will benefit the global mitochondrial community. The agreement between the UMDF and MITOCON allows the two organizations to collaborate on the funding current and future research grants, to share information about the affected community, and to mutually participate in international meetings held by each organization.

This month IMP has become a full member of Eurordis, the European Organisation for Rare Diseases. With more than 500 direct member organisations, Eurordis is now recognised and listened to as the European organisation specialised in the needs of patients with rare diseases. IMP supports the belief that bringing together all patient associations will provide people with rare diseases with a strong and unique voice. For information on Eurordis:

Douglas C. Wallace, PhD, a pioneering genetics researcher in the USA who founded the field of mitochondrial genetics in humans, will receive the 2012 Genetics Prize of The Gruber Foundation. Wallace is being honoured with this prestigious international award for his groundbreaking achievements in helping science understand the role of mitochondria-the "power plants" of cells-in the development of disease and as markers for human evolution.

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