Oxygen deprivation has unexpected therapeutic benefits in treating mitochondrial diseases that affect the brain, according to a murine study published in the journal PNAS.

In previous research, scientists found that the hypoxic environment significantly decreased typical symptoms of Leigh syndrome and prolonged the rodents’ survival.

By contrast, an environment with levels of oxygen higher than normal caused premature death in the animal model but had no impact on normal, healthy animals.

In the new study, the degree of brain damage varied with the levels of oxygen, over time. Overall, mice that had been treated with hypoxia lived for an average of 270 days, while those living in an environment with 21 percent oxygen survived for only 58 days, on average.

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