SAN DIEGO, April 22, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Atmospheric oxygen facilitated the evolution and complexity of terrestrial organisms, including human beings, because it allowed nutrients to be used more efficiently by those organisms, which in turn were able to generate more energy. However, as we find out more about how oxygen molecules work inside the body, more attention is being paid to their not-so-good effects, and researchers are seeking ways to thwart them.
A number of environmental factors -- such as pollution, cigarette smoke and radiation -- can turn the oxygen molecules found in mitochondria, the power plants of cells, into free radicals. These unstable molecules destroy virtually all the normal molecules forming cells, such as lipids, proteins and even DNA, by turning them into free radicals, too. This destructive phenomenon is associated with aging and occurs in a variety of diseases, including hypertension and diabetes, which represent major challenges for health systems due to their great social and economic costs. Those costs have motivated scientists worldwide to undertake intensive searches for substances that bolster cell resistance to the harmful effects of free radicals.
Many studies of antioxidants in vegetables and fruits, such as carrots and tomatoes, have been completed with few encouraging results, says Christian Cortes-Rojo, a researcher at Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. "The problem is that the antioxidants in those substances are unable to enter mitochondria. So free radicals go on damaging mitochondria, causing energy production to stop and the cell to collapse and die. An analogy would be that, during an oil spill, if we cleaned only the spilled oil instead of fixing the perforation where oil is escaping, then the oil would go on spilling, and fish would die anyway."
But Cortes-Rojo is prepared to reveal next week the first research results showing the protectiv
|SOURCE American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology|
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