The American Physiological Society Press Release

press release logo

APS Contact: APS Communications Office


Phone: 301.634.7209

Twitter: @APSPhysiology

Could the Bioenergetic Health Index Become the Next BMI?

Diagnostic that measures energy profile in cells could predict susceptibility to disease 

Tampa, Fla. (September 9, 2015)—A number of chronic diseases that have widespread effects on worldwide populations, such as cancer, neurodegeneration and cardio-metabolic syndromes, are known to have a connection to mitochondrial bioenergetics, the process by which cells create and use energy. Exactly how the common factors in disease pathologies intersect with bioenergetics and other influences, such as ethnic origin, is still not understood. However, as the study of bioenergetics expands, the developing concept of an individual’s bioenergetic health may provide more insight into why certain people and populations are at risk of disease.

Cellular mitochondrial function is known to vary between populations due to differences in genetic background and in response to lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. “The bioenergetic health of an individual or group can serve as an early warning or the ‘canary in the coal mine’ to determine those with susceptibility to pathologies which stress the mitochondrion,” said Victor Darley-Usmar of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and organizer for the “Physiological Bioenergetics: From Bench to Bedside” conference. According to Darley-Usmar, advances in research have made it possible to measure cellular energetic function in the small number of cells that can be isolated from human blood or from tissue biopsy samples. This information can be used to create a bioenergetic health index (BHI), “the first attempt to develop a real time functional endpoint that can ultimately be linked to transcriptomics and metabolomics in a comprehensive individual energetic profile.”

“It is clear that we urgently need new clinical tests to monitor changes in bioenergetics in patient populations,” Darley-Usmar said. Ultimately, BHI has the potential to be a new biomarker for assessing patient health of (or for) both prognostic and diagnostic value.

Darley-Usmar will present his talk, “Measuring Bioenergetic Health in Human Populations” during the Translational Bioenergetics symposium at 2:30 PM EDT on Thursday, Sept. 10, in the Harbour Island Ballroom of the Westin Tampa Harbour Island Hotel.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To read the full abstract or to schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.



Chronic Drinking Disrupts Liver’s Circadian Clock, Contributes to Alcoholic Liver Disease

Released September 10, 2015 - Staying on an internal schedule is important for health, and disease can occur if the body’s internal clock is disrupted. A new study reinforces the importance of circadian rhythm, reporting that chronic drinking contributes to alcoholic liver disease because it impairs the liver’s production schedule of molecules that power it to run.

For Veterans with Gulf War Illness, an Explanation for the Unexplainable Symptoms

Released September 10, 2015 - One in four Gulf War veterans suffers from Gulf War Illness, a condition characterized by unexplainable chronic fatigue, muscle pain and cognitive dysfunction. New research finds for the first time direct evidence that the cells of Gulf War veterans cannot produce enough energy to run the body, explaining the fatigue and slow down of the body.

High-Intensity Training Delivers Results for Older Men—But Not for Older Women

Released September 10, 2015 - High intensity training (HIT) is often recommended as a way to improve cardiovascular fitness in men and women, however, studies on these exercise regimens have focused on younger subjects. University of Copenhagen researchers looked at HIT effects in older males and females and found significant differences between men and women. They presented their results at the Physiological Bioenergetics conference in Tampa, Fla.

Mechanical Ventilators: From Breathing Help to Breathing Handicap

Released September 10, 2015 - Researchers explore cell-level changes that weaken the diaphragm after prolonged ventilator use Abstract: Mechanical ventilators are routinely used in both surgical and emergency situations every day in U.S. hospitals. Though often life saving in the short term, prolonged use of ventilators can lead to diaphragm weakness, and problems commonly arise—roughly 20 to 30 percent of the time—when weaning the patient off of the ventilator. In a new study, researchers at the University of Florida provide insights into what causes the weakness on a cellular level. Their result could lead to strategies that hospitals can use to help prevent ventilator-related diaphragm damage.