In 1983, Life Extension® introduced a relatively little-known compound called coenzyme Q10. Our review of the literature back then had unearthed data confirming its power to boost the health and energy output of the mitochondria.
Today, scientists recognize mitochondrial dysfunction as a key biomarker of aging.1-6 To take one instance, researchers have recorded evidence of 50% more mitochondrial damage in the brain cells of humans over 70 compared to middle-aged individuals.7 Mitochondrial dysfunction and death are now definitively linked to the development of virtually all killer diseases of aging, from Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes to heart failure.8-11
The good news is that mitochondrial dysfunction can be reversed.12 The scientific literature is now filled with studies documenting the therapeutic power of CoQ10 to thwart degenerative disease by boosting mitochondrial health and bioenergetic (energy-producing) capacity.13-16
The latest advance in the area of mitochondrial bioenergetics is the coenzyme pyrroloquinoline quinone or PQQ.
PQQ’s critical role across a range of biological functions has only gradually emerged. Like CoQ10, it is a micronutrient whose antioxidant capacity provides extraordinary defense against mitochondrial decay.
But the most exciting revelation on PQQ emerged early in 2010, when researchers found it not only protected mitochondria from oxidative damage—it stimulated growth of fresh mitochondria!17
In this article, you will learn of this novel coenzyme’s ability to combat mitochondrial dysfunction. You will find out how it protects the brain, heart, and muscles against degenerative disease. You will also discover its potential to reverse cellular aging by activating genes that induce mitochondrial biogenesis—the spontaneous formation of new mitochondria in aging cells!
PQQ: A Breakthrough in Cellular Anti-Aging
PQQ is ubiquitous in the natural world. Its presence in interstellar stardust has led some experts to hypothesize a pivotal role for PQQ in the evolution of life on Earth.18 It has been found in all plant species tested to date. Neither humans nor the bacteria that colonize the human digestive tract have demonstrated the ability to synthesize it.19 This has led researchers to classify PQQ as an essential micronutrient.20
PQQ’s potential to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis was foreshadowed by repeated early findings indicating its central role in growth and development across multiple forms of life.
It has been shown to be a potent growth factor in plants, bacteria, and higher organisms.21,22 Pre-clinical studies reveal that when deprived of dietary PQQ, animals exhibit stunted growth, compromised immunity, impaired reproductive capability, and most importantly, fewer mitochondria in their tissue. Rates of conception, the number of offspring, and survival rates in juvenile animals are also significantly reduced in the absence of PQQ.23-25 Introducing PQQ back into the diet reverses these effects, restoring systemic function while simultaneously increasing mitochondrial number and energetic efficiency.
Optimal Mitochondrial Defense
As the primary engines of almost all bioenergy production, the mitochondria rank among the physiological structures most vulnerable to destruction from oxidative damage. PQQ’s formidable free radical–scavenging capacity furnishes the mitochondria with superior antioxidant protection.
At the core of this capacity is an extraordinary molecular stability.30 As a bioactive coenzyme, PQQ actively participates in the energy transfer within the mitochondria that supplies the body with most of its bioenergy (like CoQ10).
Unlike other antioxidant compounds, PQQ’s exceptional stability allows it to carry out thousands of these electron transfers without undergoing molecular breakdown. It has been proven especially effective in neutralizing the ubiquitous superoxide and hydroxyl radicals.31 According to the most recent research, “PQQ is 30 to 5,000 times more efficient in sustaining redox cycling (mitochondrial energy production) . . . than other common [antioxidant compounds], e.g. ascorbic acid.”21 A consistent finding in the scientific literature is that nutrients like PQQ provide more wide-ranging benefits than conventional antioxidants the general public relies on.
Anti-Aging Armor for the Most Energy-Intensive Organs
PQQ’s dual capacity as a cell signaling modulator and a superior antioxidant renders it optimally effective in combating degenerative disease and age-related declines in the body’s most energetic organs: the heart and brain.
The revelation of its ability to favorably affect system-wide cell development, metabolism, and mitochondrial biogenesis affords an explanation for a wealth of data on its neuroprotective and cardioprotective benefits.
PQQ has been shown to optimize health and function of the entire central nervous system. It reverses cognitive impairment caused by chronic oxidative stress in pre-clinical models, improving performance on memory tests.32 It has also been shown to safeguard the “Parkinson’s disease gene,” DJ-1, from self-oxidation—an early step in the onset of disease.33
Reactive nitrogen species (RNS), like reactive oxygen species, impose severe stresses on damaged neurons.34 They arise spontaneously following stroke and spinal cord injuries and have been shown to account for a substantial proportion of subsequent long-term neurological damage. PQQ suppresses RNS in experimentally induced strokes.35 It also provides additional protection by blocking gene expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), a major source of RNS, following spinal cord injury.36
PQQ powerfully protects brain cells against oxidative damage following ischemia-reperfusion injury—the inflammation and oxidative damage that result from the sudden return of blood and nutrients to tissues deprived of them by stroke.37 Given immediately before induction of stroke in animal models, PQQ significantly reduces the size of the damaged brain area.38
PQQ also interacts in a beneficial manner with our brain’s neurotransmitter systems. In particular, PQQ protects neurons by modifying the important NMDA receptor site.39,40 NMDA is a powerful mediator of “excitotoxicity,” a response to long-term overstimulation of neurons that is associated with many neurodegenerative diseases and seizures.41-43 PQQ also protects against neurotoxicity induced by other toxins, including mercury.44,45
A mounting body of evidence points to PQQ as a potent intervention in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Both are triggered by accumulation of abnormal proteins that initiate a cascade of oxidative events resulting in brain cell death. PQQ prevents development of a protein (alpha-synuclein) associated with Parkinson’s disease.46 It also protects nerve cells from the oxidizing ravages of the amyloid-beta protein linked with Alzheimer’s disease.47 A 2010 study revealed that PQQ could prevent formation of amyloid beta molecular structures.48
PQQ has also been shown to protect memory and cognition in both aging animals and humans.49,50 It stimulates production and release of nerve growth factor in cells that support neurons in the brain.51 This may partially explain why PQQ supplementation of aging rats resulted in marked improvement of their memory function.49
In humans, supplementation with 20 mg per day of PQQ resulted in improvements on tests of higher cognitive function in a group of middle-aged and elderly people.50 These effects were significantly amplified when the subjects also took 300 mg per day of CoQ10.