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The Livi Center for Mitochondrial Disease

What is Mitochondrial Disease?

Mitochondria are responsible for producing the energy needed to support and regulate the body’s cell growth and function.  When they become diseased, cells become injured and can even die.  If the process continues unchecked, entire systems begin to fail, greatly compromising and even threatening the life of the person affected.  

How Does it Affect the Body?

It appears to cause the most damage to those organs that require the most energy to grow and function properly, including the heart, brain, heart, liver, lungs and kidneys.  In general, it causes progressive weakness in these systems and can lead to death.

Who is Affected?

It primarily affects children, but it is becoming increasingly common among adults.  More than 1 in 4,000 children born in the United States each year will develop a mitochondrial disease by age 10.


Currently, there is no reliable way to diagnose and treat these rare disorders. Now is the time to go outside the traditional methods and begin to bring more effective drugs and care to the patients and families who need them.  

With this in mind, the Medical University of South Carolina is seeking to establish a center dedicated to finding new treatments and ultimately a cure for these disorders:  The Livi Center for Mitochondrial Disease.

The center is being established in memory of Miss Oliva “Livi” Custer, a brave little girl from Beaufort who suffered from Leigh’s Disease, a form of mitochondrial disease.  We honor her legacy of strength in the face of adversity by working to find a cure for this devastating disorder and others like it. 

Our Goals

  • Establish a specialized system and setting to treat children with these diseases
  • Build a strong research program to develop better diagnosis, assessment and treatment strategies
  • Study the safety and effectiveness of new therapies and drugs, including EPI-743, which has shown great promise in the treatment of mitochondrial diseases
  • Strengthen collaborations with other researchers with an expertise and interest in this area

How You Can Help

Our immediate challenge is a financial one. This center will require additional researchers, nurses and physicians that we cannot support with our available resources.  Therefore, we are now turning to people like you to make this center a reality.  In honor of Livi, and for the many children in need of this specialized care, we hope that you will assist us in this important cause.

To make a gift or receive more information, please contact Meredith L. Gale, Director of Development at the Medical University at 843-792-4342, toll-free 800-810-MUSC or email

To make an online gift to MUSC's Livi Center for Mitochondrial Disease click here.


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