Biocomplexity and fractality in the search of biomarkers of aging and pathology: Focus on mitochondrial dna and alzheimer's disease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Alzheimer's disease (AD) represents one major health concern for our growing elderly population. It accounts for increasing impairment of cognitive capacity followed by loss of executive function in late stage. AD pathogenesis is multifaceted and difficult to pinpoint, and understanding AD etiology will be critical to effectively diagnose and treat the disease. An interesting hypothesis concerning AD development postulates a cause-effect relationship between accumulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations and neurodegenerative changes associated with this pathology. Here we propose a computerized method for an easy and fast mtDNA mutations-based characterization of AD. The method has been built taking into account the complexity of living being and fractal properties of many anatomic and physiologic structures, including mtDNA. Dealing with mtDNA mutations as gaps in the nucleotide sequence, fractal lacunarity appears a suitable tool to differentiate between aging and AD. Therefore, Chaos Game Representation method has been used to display DNA fractal properties after adapting the algorithm to visualize also heteroplasmic mutations. Parameter ß from our fractal lacunarity method, based on hyperbola model function, has been measured to quantitatively characterize AD on the basis of mtDNA mutations. Results from this pilot study to develop the method show that fractal lacunarity parameter ß of mtDNA is statistically different in AD patients when compared to age-matched controls. Fractal lacunarity analysis represents a useful tool to analyze mtDNA mutations. Lacunarity parameter ß is able to characterize individual mutation profile of mitochondrial genome and appears a promising index to discriminate between AD and aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-56
Number of pages13
JournalAging and Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Biocomplexity
  • Chaos game representation
  • Fractal lacunarity
  • Mtdna
  • Mtdnaaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cell Biology

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