And he is entirely made up.
Charles Wallace is the creation of Madeleine L’Engle. His disease is the main topic of her book The Wind in the Door. The story goes off with his sister on an outrageous escapade to save him. It is wild and over the top and unbelievable. I thought it was entirely fantasy.
But mitochondria are real.
It is difficult to believe that L’Engle didn’t make up mitochondria as well. There are hundreds to thousands of mitochondria in every living cell in your body. They have their own DNA, separate from your DNA. They replicate independently.
You probably got most of your mitochondria from your mother. There is some evidence that small amounts of mitochondria could get into the fertilized egg through the sperm, but generally speaking they are maternally inherited. So much so, in fact, that geneticists have traced entire lines of mitochondria back to 7 original ancestors, called the 7 Daughters of Eve. Sometime far back in evolution, an ancestor mitochondria became engulfed by a eukaryotic cell (like your cells) and an evolutionary cascade began that eventually resulted in humans.
There are hundreds or thousands of mitochondria in each of your living cells. Mitochondria produce all of the energy you use in your body. Without your mitochondria, you’d be in a pickle.
That’s why mitochondrial diseases are bad news.
Basically, each of your living cells contains hundreds or thousands of double-membraned organelles that have their own DNA and turn your food into energy. Can you blame me for thinking that was science fiction?
Unfortunately, the cure Charles Wallace’s sister Meg and her companions eventually find for his mitochondria’s sickness is fiction. There is no cure for mitochondrial diseases.