Giant mitochondria in human liver disease

Gerald J. Shami, Iryna V. Samarska, Ger H. Koek, Amy Li, Elena Palma, Shilpa Chokshi, Eddie Wisse, Filip Braet

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This thematic review aims to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge about the occurrence of giant mitochondria or megamitochondria in liver parenchymal cells. Their presence and accumulation are considered to be a major pathological hallmark of the health and fate of liver parenchymal cells that leads to overall tissue deterioration and eventually results in organ failure. The first description on giant mitochondria dates back to the 1960s, coinciding with the availability of the first generation of electron microscopes in clinical diagnostic laboratories. Detailed accounts on their ultrastructure have mostly been described in patients suffering from alcoholic liver disease, chronic hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Interestingly, from this extensive literature survey, it became apparent that giant mitochondria or megamitochondria present themselves with or without highly organised crystal-like intramitochondrial inclusions. The origin, formation and potential role of giant mitochondria remain to-date largely unanswered. Likewise, the biochemical composition of the well-organised crystal-like inclusions and their possible impact on mitochondrial function is unclear. Herein, concepts about the possible mechanism of their formation and three-dimensional architecture will be approached. We will furthermore discuss their importance in diagnostics, including future research outlooks and potential therapeutic interventions to cure liver disease where giant mitochondria are implemented.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLiver International
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • crystal-like inclusions
  • diagnostic microscopy
  • electron tomography
  • fatty liver disease
  • histopathological marker
  • mitochondrial aberrations
  • volume electron microscopy


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