Oxidative stress may not be all that harmful

December 7th, 2011 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 7 (IANS) Anti-oxidants play a critical role in protecting cells but could also damage them or cause their deaths if they are malfunctioning, a study reveals.

This damage known as oxidative stress is believed to be tied with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes and is also implicated in aging.

For the first time, scientists of the German Cancer Research Centre (known as the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum or simply DKFZ in German) have been able to directly observe oxidative changes in a living organism.

Basing their study on fruit flies, researchers found no evidence that the life span is limited by the production of harmful oxidants, according to a statement by DKFZ.

“However, up to now, nobody was able to directly observe oxidative changes in a living organism and certainly not how they are connected with disease processes,” said Tobias Dick, researcher at the DKFZ.

“There were only fairly unspecific or indirect methods of detecting which oxidative processes are really taking place in an organism,” said Dick.

For the first time, Tobias Dick and his co-workers have been able to observe these processes in a living animal. Jointly with Aurelio Teleman (also of DKFZ), they introduced genes for biosensors into the genetic material of fruit flies.

These biosensors are specific for various oxidants and indicate the oxidative status of each cell by emitting a light signal — in realtime, in the whole organism and across the entire life span.

Many scientists have assumed that the aging process is associated with a general increase in oxidants throughout the body.

However, this was not confirmed by the observations made by the investigators across the entire life span of the adult animals.

Even though comprehensive studies have failed to provide proof until the present day, anti-oxidants are often advertised as a protection against oxidative stress and thus health-promoting.

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