UCSDMito Research Fund

Mito Research Fund

Welcome to the UC San Diego Mitochondrial Research Fund! 

Our mission is to raise money for UC San Diego Metabolic and Mitochondrial Disease Clinic ‘s research to enable Dr. Naviaux and his team to search for a treatment, and ultimately a cure, for children and young adults suffering from mitochondrial disease. 

What Is Mitochondrial Disease?

Mitochondrial disease results from failures of the mitochondria, the organelles responsible for more than 90 percent of all energy needed to sustain life and support growth. When these fail, the cell produces less energy resulting in cell injury and death. When this process occurs throughout the body, whole systems fail, compromising the body’s ability to sustain life. 

UC San Diego Doctors at Work

Of all the critical research taking place in medicine, mitochondrial medicine is the fastest growing area. Mitochondrial disease is widely recognized as one of the most important new areas of study in medicine — not only because it affects children with genetic disease, but because it can be implicated in virtually all chronic illnesses associated with aging, and many autoimmune diseases. By looking for better treatments of mitochondrial disease in children, we can better treat common adult diseases as well. 

In a recent paper by UC San Diego Physician-Scientist Dr. Robert Naviaux, he explains why children with mitochondrial disease have numerous complications with infections, how to prevent these complications with new kinds of early intervention, and how mitochondrial dysfunction lies at the heart of many of the most prevalent chronic diseases known to medicine — including diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Symptoms vary between individuals but can include:

  • Loss of motor control • Muscle weakness and pain
  • Difficulty swallowing • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Stunted growth • Heart and liver disease
  • Diabetes • Respiratory complications
  • Seizures • Visual / Hearing impairments
  • Developmental delays • Susceptibility to infection

Mito Facts

  • Children with mitochondrial disease (MD) have a 50 percent chance of living past age 10; only 20 percent live to age 20.
  • Every 30 minutes a child is born who will develop MD by age 10.
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked to many other diseases including Autism, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, cancer, obesity and infertility.
  • Over 50 million Americans suffer from these diseases and disorders. If a cure is found for MD, all of these diseases /disorders will benefit.

What are we doing about it?

On May 16th, we are having our third annual 5K FUN RUN called “Mito Mad Hats and Mustaches” to raise funds and awareness for Mitochondrial Disease research. We hope you will join us as we fight to find a cure! 


 Register for the Mad Hats and Mustaches Mito 5k-Run, Walk, and Roll at NTC PARK Liberty Station Point Loma by clicking HERE


What exactly is ‘mitochondria’?

It is an organelle found in large numbers in most cells, in which the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur. It has a double membrane, the inner layer being folded inward to form layers.

Why is it important?

When people exhaust too much energy, they complain that they are tired. All a tired person wants to do is lay down. The act of laying down rejuvenates that energy so they can live another day. Without strong mitochondria cells the process of rejuvenating is slower and less effective which causes the person to remain tired. The immune system becomes weak and illnesses become more dangerous, which threatens the lives of all people who have the ‘mitochondria disease.’

Why fight?

We fight because we want to save lives.

Meet the Doctors

Dr. Robert K. Naviaux is board certified in intemal medicine and a specialist in biochemical genetics and metabolism. His research experience spans 20 years and embraces the fields of virology, genetics, cancer, and metabolism. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis. He was an undergraduate research intern in tumor immunology at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and studied biochemistry at the GeorgAugust University in Gottingen, Germany. He was trained as a medical scientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he received both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, graduating with highest distinction. In 1990, he was named one of ten National Medical Residents of the Year for clinical excellence by the NIH. He completed his advanced training in virology and molecular biology at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, where he conducted research in cancer gene therapy and basic retrovirus biology in the laboratory of Dr. Inder M. Verma. Dr. Naviaux has been a practicing physician since 1986.
Dr. Richard H. Haas is a board certified pediatric neurologist and pediatrician. He is nationally known for his basic and clinical work in neurometabolic disease, and has carried out both clinical and bench research on the mitochondrial and metabolic diseases of children for over 20 years. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Cambridge University, England, and studied clinical medicine at University College Hospital in London. He was trained in both intemal medicine in Southampton, and pediatrics at the Hammersmith and Great Ormond Street Hospitals in London, and is a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He completed his advanced clinical training in pediatric neurology at the University of Colorado, Denver, where he also conducted basic research in mitochondrial biology in the laboratory of Dr. David Stumpf as a National Institutes of Health Fellow in the biochemistry of mental retardation. He is a professor at the University of Califomia, San Diego, with joint appointments in the departments of Neurosciences and Pediatrics. Dr. Haas has been a practicing physician since 1972.