Abnormalities in the brain’s cellular power plants, known as mitochondria, may drive early Alzheimer’s processes — even before the telltale amyloid plaque that marks the disease starts forming in the brain. The finding suggests that treatments that target the abnormal energy-making processes may be a new way of approaching Alzheimer’s treatment. The study, “Nuclear but not mitochondrial-encoded OXPHOS genes are altered in aging, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's disease,” was published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia. Mitochondria are crucial to health because they are the only cellular structures that convert nutrients to energy. The process, called oxidative phosphorylation, involves a number of protein complexes that are built from two sets of genes. One set is in the cell nucleus. The other is in the mitochondria, which has its own genome. There is a general consensus that mitochondrial processes become less efficient with age. But it isn't clear if specific changes can herald the development of Alzheimer’s. Researchers from the Arizona State University’s Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center and the Biodesign Center for Bioenergetics analyzed the brains of deceased people to try to better understand the genes that give rise to energy-making complexes. The team focused on the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory processing.