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CoQ10 and Heart Disease


by Robin Koon -

Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) is a mitochondrial coenzyme that is essential for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s form of chemical energy. The human body has approximately 100 trillion cells, and each one must produce its own energy to carry out its biological functions. The cells produce this energy by burning (oxidizing) carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This controlled burning or oxidation process (catabolic reactions) occurs as a result of oxygen combining with foodstuffs to produce energy, carbon dioxide and water. More than 95 percent of the oxygen we inhale is used solely for the purpose of making energy through this process. The result of these chemical reactions is converted into chemical energy in the form of ATP molecules. These ATP molecules supply the energy needed for the various cellular chemical and biological reactions necessary for life to occur (termed: bioenergetics). ATP is the fuel used to provide cellular energy, making life possible.


ATP was first discovered in 1929 by the German chemist Karl Lohmann. In 1935, Vladimir Engelhart (Russia) noted muscle contractions require ATP; between 1939 and 1941, Fritz Lipmann (United States) showed ATP is the main bearer of chemical energy in the cell; and in 1948, Alexander Todd (U.K.) synthesized ATP chemically.

ATP is produced by almost all living things inside the cell in a structure (organelle) called mitochondria (also known as the body’s cellular energy power plant). Several processes lead to a final one, where ATP is created (cellular respiration). Cellular respiration is the process by which the chemical energy of food is released and partially captured into the form of ATP. The last step or part of this process is known as mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, where electrons are transferred from electron donors to electron acceptors (such as oxygen) in redox reactions resulting in the formation of ATP. In mammals, these redox reactions are carried out by a series of linked protein complexes, called the electron transport chain. Here is where coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) plays a critical role, acting as an electron-transfer carrier inside the electron transport chain. No CoQ10 means no ATP. It may be helpful to think of ATP as a re-chargeable battery that can provide energy as the cell needs it.


CoQ10 was discovered by Frederick L. Crane, Ph.D., in the late 1950s, during his research on the biochemistry of the mitochondrial electron transport chain. The substance was sent to Karl Folkers, Ph.D., for identification and identity of its structure. It was designated "coenzyme Q10" because of its quinone structure and the 10 isoprene unit side chain. During this time, another group of scientists led by R. A. Morton, Ph.D., isolated the same substance from mitochondria and designated it ubiquinone (from ubiquitous, meaning everywhere) because of its widespread occurrence in nature. The role of CoQ10 in the electron transport chain was first described by Peter Mitchell, Ph.D., who was awarded the Nobel Prize for that work.

Congestive Heart Failure

When the heart muscle weakens, it is not able to pump the blood efficiently; it attempts to compensate by dilating and beating faster. But this causes the blood to back up into the lungs, filling them with fluid. This condition is called congestive heart failure (CHF). Cardiomyopathy is a more severe form of CHF, with the heart muscle being uncommonly large and dilated. CHF and cardiomyopathy have numerous causes: hypertension, coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attacks, viral or bacterial infections, ischemic heart disease, etc. The treatment is normally drug-based (e.g. diuretics, digitalis, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium-channel blockers, beta blockers, etc.). If these medications do not work, the only option left for the patient is a heart transplant.

In order to determine the best course of therapy, physicians often assess the stage of heart failure according to the New York Heart Association (NYHA) functional classification system. This system relates symptoms to everyday activities with the patient's quality of life.

The United States alone has 400,000 new cases of CHF every year. It has been estimated nearly 5 million people in the United States currently have CHF.

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