In human cells, mitochondria provide the largest part of cellular energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate generated by the process of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Impaired OXPHOS activity leads to a heterogeneous group of inherited diseases for which therapeutic options today remain very limited. Potential innovative strategies aim to ameliorate mitochondrial function by increasing the total mitochondrial load of tissues and/or to scavenge the excess of reactive oxygen species generated by OXPHOS malfunctioning. In this respect, resveratrol, a compound that conveniently combines mitogenetic with antioxidant activities and, as a bonus, possesses anti-apoptotic properties, has come forward as a promising nutraceutical. We review the scientific evidence gathered so far through experiments in both in vitro and in vivo systems, evaluating the therapeutic effect that resveratrol is expected to generate in mitochondrial patients. The obtained results are encouraging, but clearly show that achieving normalization of OXPHOS function with this strategy alone could prove to be an unattainable goal.
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