Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Forget The Antioxidants? Researchers Cast Doubt On Role Of Free Radicals In Aging

Date:
February 18, 2009
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
For more than 40 years, the prevailing explanation of why we get old has been tied to what is called oxidative stress. This theory postulates that when molecules like free radicals, oxygen ions and peroxides build up in cells, they overwhelm the cells' ability to repair the damage they cause, and the cells age. Now researchers are calling the entire oxidative stress theory into question. Some organisms live longer when their ability to rid themselves of free radicals is partially disabled.

Though an industry has grown around alternative antioxidant therapies, clinical trials have not shown that such treatments have statistically significant effects.
Credit: iStockphoto/Marcela Barsse

For more than 40 years, the prevailing explanation of why we get old has been tied to what is called oxidative stress. This theory postulates that when molecules like free radicals, oxygen ions and peroxides build up in cells, they overwhelm the cells' ability to repair the damage they cause, and the cells age.

Related Articles


An industry of "alternative" antioxidant therapies -- such as Vitamin E or CoQ10 supplements in megadose format -- has sprung up as the result of this theory. However, clinical trials have not shown that these treatments have statistically significant effects.

And now researchers at McGill University, in a study published in the February issue of the journal PLoS Genetics, are calling the entire oxidative stress theory into question. Their results show that some organisms actually live longer when their ability to clean themselves of this toxic molecule buildup is partially disabled. Collectively, these molecules are known as reactive oxygen species, or ROS for short.

Dr. Siegfried Hekimi of McGill's Department of Biology, said most of the evidence for the oxidative stress theory is circumstantial, meaning oxidative stress could just as easily be a result of aging as its cause.

"The problem with the theory is that it's been based purely on correlative data, on the weight of evidence," explained Hekimi, McGill's Strathcona Chair of Zoology and Robert Archibald & Catherine Louise Campbell Chair in Developmental Biology. "It is true that the more an organism appears aged, whether in terms of disease, or appearance or anything you care to measure, the more it seems to be suffering from oxidative stress".

"This has really entrenched the theory," he continued, "because people think correlation is causation. But now this theory really is in the way of progress."

Hekimi and postdoctoral fellow Jeremy Van Raamsdonk studied mutant Caenorhabditis elegans worms. They progressively disabled five genes responsible for producing a group of proteins called superoxide dismutases (SODs), which detoxify one of the main ROS. Earlier studies seemed to show that decreased SOD production shortened an organism's lifespan, but Hekimi and Van Raamsdonk did not observe this. In fact, they found quite the opposite.

None of their mutant worms showed decreased lifespan compared to wild-type worms, even though oxidative stress was clearly raised. In fact, one variety actually displayed increased lifespan, the researchers said.

"The mutation that increases longevity affects the main SOD found in mitochondria inside the animals' cells," said Hekimi. "This is consistent with earlier findings that mitochondria are crucial to the aging process. It seems that reducing mitochondrial activity by damaging it with ROS will actually make worms live longer."

The researchers hasten to point out that they are not suggesting that oxidative stress is good for you.

"ROS undoubtedly cause damage to the body," Hekimi said. "However, they do not appear to be responsible for aging."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McGill University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeremy M. Van Raamsdonk, Siegfried Hekimi. Deletion of the Mitochondrial Superoxide Dismutase sod-2 Extends Lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS Genetics, 2009; 5 (2): e1000361 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000361

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "Forget The Antioxidants? Researchers Cast Doubt On Role Of Free Radicals In Aging." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217173040.htm>.
McGill University. (2009, February 18). Forget The Antioxidants? Researchers Cast Doubt On Role Of Free Radicals In Aging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217173040.htm
McGill University. "Forget The Antioxidants? Researchers Cast Doubt On Role Of Free Radicals In Aging." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217173040.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Bupa Eyes India Healthcare Opportunities

Bupa Eyes India Healthcare Opportunities

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Bupa is hoping to expand in India&apos;s fast-growing health insurance market, once a rule change on foreign investment is implemented. The British private healthcare group&apos;s CEO tells Grace Pascoe why it&apos;s so keen on the new opportunity. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Mobile apps are turning smartphones into a personal doctors, with users able to measure heart rate, blood pressure and even blood sugar. But will it change our behaviour? Ivor Bennett reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AbbVie Inks $21B Deal To Buy Cancer Drugmaker Pharmacyclics

AbbVie Inks $21B Deal To Buy Cancer Drugmaker Pharmacyclics

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) AbbVie announced Wednesday it will buy cancer drugmaker Pharmacyclics in a $21 billion deal. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) Researchers found adults only get the flu about once every five years. Scientists analyzed how a person&apos;s immunity builds up over time as well. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins