Our Mission

MitoWorld ™ is a web platform, or portal, that brings together the latest research and emerging fields associated with mitochondrial research, patient support, health resources, and the growing understanding of the importance of healthy energy production in medicine and health.

The platform aims to make more public the researchers and medical practitioners around the world who view mitochondria as a new lens for medicine and health, taking its place alongside DNA research.

Mitochondria represent a significant advancement not only in the recognition, research, treatment, and search for cures for mitochondrial diseases and dysfunction but also in the way we view how life forms operate and how medicine and health can be understood from the perspective of the tiny mitochondria to the cells, tissues, organs, and the systemic operation of the human body (and other life forms). This discovery is similar to the discovery of fundamental particles in physics.

With each passing month, more intractable mitochondrial diseases are being researched, and many more common diseases and conditions are being studied through the lens of mitochondria, from cancer to obesity, and beyond. Mitochondria research is becoming a large business in the pursuit of health, longevity, mental and physical fitness. Within a few years, what currently seems distant and unknown about mitochondria will become commonplace.

MitoWorld ™ is evolving, and your involvement is welcome.

Please visit or email us at

Disclaimer: MitoWorld is designed to reference existing sources and not to endorse, justify, or support those sources and their writings. As such, MitoWorld does not endorse, recommend or provide advice of any kind on this site and instead provides access to information, leaving the reader to use their own judgement and the judgement of medical professionals on whom they rely. Nothing on this site is medical advice and we at MitoWorld recommend that people seek professional medical advice from trained and certified medical doctors.

Our Team

Headshot of Gordon Freedman

Gordon Freedman

Organizer, Mitochondria World, President & Board Member

Gordon Freedman is the founder and a board member of the National Laboratory for Education Transformation (NLET),, which is the sponsoring nonprofit for MitoWorld. NLET funding in education and employment comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Labor, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and state education and philanthropies. Freedman’s interest and commitment to mitochondria issues grew out of his ten year effort to decipher his own multiple health issues, which turned out to be mitochondrial in nature. During that process, Freedman, like many with rare conditions, consulted multiple doctors who had no knowledge of mitochondrial issues, did not believe in such diagnoses and often prescribed medication for other conditions. This experience plus a background on Capitol Hill, in the media and running NLET since 2011, made Freedman realize that we are on the precipice of a mitochondrial revolution in medicine, health, peak performance and longevity. After surveying many of the research labs, patient care and advocacy groups, and those involved in evolution, Freedman made the decision to commit time and effort to help organize and “mainstream” mitochondria issues for the public, patients, the medical community and mitochondria labs, institutes and researchers.



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Alexander J. Sercel, PhD

Director of Scientific Affairs

Dr. Alexander J. Sercel is an expert in mitochondrial biology and whole-body energetics specializing in mitochondrial transfer and hypermetabolism. He has over a decade of advanced training and experience in cellular and mitochondrial biology, including his PhD dissertation work at the University of California, Los Angeles and postdoctoral training at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. In addition to research, he is passionate about science communication, public outreach, and inclusion in STEM and has spoken to more than 1000 high school students about starting their own careers in biomedical research. Alexander is dedicated to improving care and treatments for patients with mitochondrial diseases as well as strengthening and promoting the global mitochondrial research community.



UCLA Grad Slam 2019, Final Presentation: Alexander Sercel

Headshot of Afshin Beheshti, PhD

Afshin Beheshti, PhD Volunteer

Director, Mitochondrial Informatics, Mitochondria & Space

Dr. Beheshti, PhD completed his PhD from Florida State University in physics and made a transition to cancer, systems biology, space biology, and radiation biology for his postdoctoral training. In 2014 he became an Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine/Tufts Medical Center where he continued his research as a systems biologist studying various aspects of cancer including microRNAs, aging and cancer, cancer drug targets, and development of novel immunotherapy. In April 2017, Dr. Beheshti joined KBR, NASA Ames Research Center to be part of the GeneLab project assisting with developing the platform. Currently, Dr. Beheshti has his own grants and conducts research on multiple projects which include: how microRNAs and mitochondria will affect space biology and potential use for countermeasures to mitigate space radiation and microgravity; COVID-19 related research; cancer research; and impact of high altitude on human biology. In 2023 Dr. Beheshti Switched to Blue Marble Space Institute of Science at NASA Ames Research Center and continues his current research. Lastly, Dr. Beheshti currently also holds a Visiting Researcher appointment at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and is the Lead of a non-profit formed on March 2020 working on COVID-19 called COVID-19 International Research Team (COV-IRT, With COV-IRT, he has been working on many different subjects related COVID-19 research and has already produced several publications.

Dr. Beheshti has been recognized for his work through multiple awards that include: International Space Station Research & Development Award for Compelling Results in Biology from American Astronaut Society/NASA, NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and One KBR Award.

Blue Marble Space Institute of Science
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
COVID-19 International Research Team (

Sheryl Denker headshot

Sheryl Denker, PhD Volunteer

Director, Partnerships

Sheryl P. Denker, PhD is recognized as a connector and leader with a unique scientific background covering academic, editorial, and industry roles. With 15+ years of expertise in fostering collaborations to advance biomedical sciences, she thrives at the nexus of innovation, education, business development, marketing, and advocacy teams. Most recently at the global contract research organization Eurofins, Sheryl drove science and thought leadership communications to advance drug discovery programs and innovative non-animal testing alternatives. She created and managed scientific and advocacy communications with the team at the ground-breaking open-access publisher PLOS, and led the California Life Science Institute’s science education program connecting working scientists with students at Bay Area high schools and community colleges for practical, hands-on experiences. Her research career includes time as Senior Scientist at Xenogen Corp, developer of black box-imaging of bioluminescent genes and cells; at UC San Francisco, on investigations into microglial activation and regulation of fibroblast cell shape and motility; and at UC San Diego, on signaling mechanisms in vesicular transport. Sheryl completed her postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF, her PhD in Biomedical Sciences (Cell Biology and Pharmacology) at UCSD, and her BA in Physiology at UC Berkeley. She is fascinated by the way large language models and artificial intelligence systems are rapidly transforming the practice and communication of science.

Headshot of Stephanie Tomlinson

Stephanie Tomlinson Volunteer

Director, Industry Relations

Stephanie has been recognized as an advocate for Rare Disease Patients, a teller of stories and a highly empathetic communicator. Stephanie is experienced in medical device sales and research trials, men’s health, contract manufacturing, and pre-clinical safety testing.

Headshot of Sophia Zilber with green polkadots in the background

Sophia Zilber Volunteer

Director, Patient Registries & Patient Data Standards

Sophia has over 20 years of experience with drug development, including clinical data analysis, and managing statistical programming teams to ensure successful delivery of clinical study analysis requirements. After losing her newborn daughter, Miriam, to a rare disease, Leigh syndrome in 2017, Sophia volunteered her time and experience to help the rare disease community. Sophia has been involved in multiple efforts with the goal of raising awareness in the mitochondrial disease community and general rare disease community regarding patient registries and what is involved with collecting high quality data that can be used for research. Sophia is proud to be a board member and a patient registry director for Cure Mito Foundation, where she is leading a global Leigh syndrome patient registry.

Headshot of Gary C. Howard, PhD

Gary C. Howard, PhD Volunteer

Senior Editorial & Publishing Advisor

Gary C. Howard, PhD, served as a science editor and writer for the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco for 22 years. He received a PhD in biological sciences from Carnegie Mellon University and completed fellowships at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. He continues to edit and write. His latest books are The Biology of Death (2021) and The Biology of Us (expected 2024), both published by Oxford University Press. He is also an elected member of the Board of Education of Castro Valley Unified School District and an appointed member of the Alameda County Public Health Commission.

Headshot of Zach Kirshner

Zach Kirshner

Senior Visual Designer & Web Developer

Zach Kirshner is a freelance web developer, graphic designer and multimedia artist. He specializes in bespoke WordPress websites, detail-oriented digital illustration and abstract acrylic painting. During his 15-year tenure in the web and design world, Zach has applied his versatile skill to a variety of tangential fields. In 2016, Zach spent a year working with oceanographic researchers, where he helped engineer embedded hardware solutions for tracking ocean waves and currents via GPS. Prior to the pandemic, he worked as a Web Designer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for nearly three years. Zach holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of California Santa Cruz and has exhibited his paintings at Gallery North in Carmel, California.

Zach is especially passionate about helping clients organize the look and feel of their websites and crafting unique designs that reach beyond the limitations of prefab templates. He is currently seeking to work on web and design projects that feed a good conscience.


Headshot of Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson Volunteer

Mitochondrial Patient Advocacy & Outreach

Adam Johnson is a rare disease patient & self-proclaimed DadVocate (a dad first & advocate second). He is a lifelong educator who lost his career after receiving a life-altering mitochondrial disease diagnosis in 2019. Feeling alone, afraid, & helpless, he sought connection with others & began advocating through social media (Twitter & Instagram), a website & blog (, and most recently, a podcast series called Parents As Rare, part of MitoAction’s Energy In Action podcast. His overall motivation stems from the goal to own his story while supporting others along the way, including his children, family, the rare disease & mitochondrial disease communities, and other parents facing similar challenges.