Our body temperature might not ever get much hotter than 37°C [98.6°F]. But it turns out that the insides of our cells can reach a scorching 50°C [122°F].
Our cells effectively burn food in oxygen to produce energy. Unlike a fire, this is a controlled process involving several steps, but it still generates a lot of heat.
Pierre Rustin of INSERM in France and colleagues have now used a dye developed by a group in Singapore to measure the temperature inside the mitochondria of human kidney and skin cells kept at 38°C. They found that mitochondria operate at temperatures at least 6 to 10°C higher than the rest of the cell.
The finding makes sense when you think about it, says biochemist Nick Lane at University College London, author of a book about mitochondria. “Mitochondria are the main sources of heat, and they have to be hotter than the rest of the body,” he says. “I’d never really thought of that before.”
[Read the full study here.]
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