“A firefly’s tail lights up because the mitochondria is functioning the way it is supposed to,” said Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine Executive Director Laura Stanley, of Buckhead, whose 12-year-old has mitochondrial disease.
The firefly’s glowing chemical is called luciferase, which scientists are using to test drug compounds for eventual diagnostic purposes, according to Stanley, who said the Sandy Springs-based foundation chose a firefly logo for that reason.
Mitochondrial disease is actually the effect of mitochondria — small “power plants” in the body — fail-ing to work right, or an “energy production problem,” Stanley said.
“Almost all of our cells in our body have mitochondria with the exception of blood cells,” she said. “It’s taking the food we eat and turning it into energy for organs and other systems. … If mitochondria aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, muscles don’t function well, as you can imagine.”
Three years ago, the foundation launched the inaugural Hope Flies — Catch the Cure, which was literally a backyard party to simply have fun and promote awareness of the disease, according to one of this year’s event co-chairs, Virginia Maguire, of Buckhead.
“The first year, we sold about 600 tickets,” Maguire said, whose co-chairs include her husband Matt, and Heather and David Edmiston.
She said this year’s event, which is Sept. 14 at Mason Murer Fine Art in Buckhead, is tracking about the same number of tickets.
Partygoers can engage in live and silent auctions for things like a vintage Rolls Royce, special Braves experiences, and trips to Mexico and Paris. Maguire said there will be a dinner buffet and dancing to the band Yacht Rock Revue.
Since the event’s inception, almost $500,000 has been raised to benefit the foundation. This year, Stanley said she hopes to raise close to $250,000.
“Margaret and Chris Martin are the honorary chairs this year,” Maguire said. “They have a daughter, Grace, , who has it [mitochondrial disease].”
Stanley said although there is no cure or specific medication for the disease, which symptoms are known to be inconsistent and unpredictable, science is becoming increasingly “significant in terms of research and connections being made regarding mitochondria.”
Locally, the foundation supported a functional MRI study of 10 patients at Georgia State University and Georgia Tech, to understand the cognitive effects of the disease.
Additionally, cures for mitochondrial disease can impact treatments for other diseases, like autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s diseases, because they all have mitochondrial dysfunction as a primary factor.
If you go
o What: Hope Flies — Catch the Cure, to benefit the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine
o When: Sept. 14 from 7:30 p.m. to midnight
o Where: Mason Murer Fine Art, Buckhead
o Tickets: $150 per person
o Information: http://bit.ly/HopeFlies2012