Interviewer: Can you describe what lipid replacement therapy is, or LRT?
Prof. Garth Nicholson: One of the things we found that drives loss of mitochondrial function is the fact that the membranes of the mitochondria become leaky, and when they become leaky, then ions pass through the membrane, and particularly charged ions, like protons, pass through the membrane. The membrane, particularly the inner membrane, because the mitochondria is surrounded by two membranes, but all the energy production occurs at the inner membrane.
Prof. Garth Nicholson: For that to function there has to be a potential across the membrane. When you think of it, mitochondria are like little batteries inside our cells. Batteries are wrapped with insulation. The mitochondria have this little membrane of insulation around it. If you take a battery and strip the insulation off of it, the battery runs down very quickly and loses all of its energy. The same thing with the mitochondria: when the membranes become leaky, particularly the inner membrane, it loses function and can't provide or drive production of high energy molecules. Now the critical parts of the inner mitochondrial membrane that promote the leakiness happen to be the lipids.
Nicholson: When the lipids are damaged, primarily by oxidation, then the mitochondrial inner membrane becomes leakier than it is normally and the potential across the membrane goes down. Then it can't drive oxidative phosphorylation and produce the high energy molecules. What lipid replacement therapy does is it, through a natural process, replaces those damaged lipids, naturally. Now, you might ask, "Why doesn't this occur normally?" Well, actually it does occur normally. It occurs all the time.
Prof. Garth Nicholson: But the problem is, in our diets we bring in so many damaged lipids--oxidized lipids, rancid lipids more or less--
Prof. Garth Nicholson: That you're replacing junk with junk, and that doesn't do it. You have to have a pristine source of undamaged lipids to repair the membrane, and that's what lipid replacement therapy does: it provides this pristine source of lipids, which are taken in as a natural food, a functional food, and then it goes through the normal process, which is in our system anyway, of replacement. It's carried to the sites where it's needed, to the cells where it's needed, and inside the cells it's taken to the mitochondria. We have a natural replacement process that goes on, and the damaged lipids are then removed and go out the same way the other lipids came in.