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Reactive Oxygen Species are the Root Cause of all Diseases

Updated on July 5, 2016

cell therapy - cell biology - cytokines

Journal of Cell Science & Therapy

A healthy human body functions via a plethora of biochemical reactions occurring simultaneously at any given time in a balanced manner. Most of these biochemical reactions are redox in nature i.e. they involve give and take of electrons between various biological compounds. Imbalance in any of these reactions causes generation of unwanted byproducts which subsequently disturb other metabolic pathways, finally leading to sickness and ill health. The most dangerous of the byproducts are the free radicals or ROS i.e. reactive oxygen species.

ROS are created by the addition of extra electrons into the oxygen atom so that it acquires extra charge and becomes highly reactive. This reactive oxygen species roam freely in the cell disturbing other stable bio molecules like DNA, proteins and lipids. In addition they also disturb other metabolic signaling pathways and their associated functions. We can say ROS are the cellular terrorists who are on a killing spree. Fortunately our body has its own combat mechanism namely “antioxidant enzymes” which include Super oxide dismutase (SOD) and Glutathione per oxidase (GPx). These antioxidants absorb the extra electron thereby neutralizing the reactive species and avoiding further damage.

When the amount of ROS produced exceeds the cellular capacity of antioxidant enzymes to neutralize them, the cell is said to be under oxidation stress. In such condition the excess ROS keep on damaging the cellular components, especially DNA at such a rapid rate that the inherent repair mechanism lags behind. This leads to introduction of unwanted and hazardous alterations at a genetic level. If these changes happen to occur in crucial genes responsible for cell growth mechanisms and associated functions such as apoptosis, it leads to carcinogenics i.e. induction of cancer.

Cancer cells have high amount of ROS which cause genetic instability in them thereby leading to activation of other oncogenes. These activated oncogenes promote uncontrolled cell growth and division and invade nearby cells to convert them into cancer cells. This process is called metastasis or progression of cancer. Scientists are investigating the role of antioxidant enzymes as a therapy to cure cancer at its onset. The main aim is to suppress the antioxidant mechanism in cancer cells in a targeted manner and increase the oxidation stress inside the cancer cells above the threshold level by administering anticancer drugs so that the cancer cell is unable to survive and ultimately killed.

Aging and stress can increase the number of ROS produced in a dramatic manner. This explains why the incidence of cancer is very high in people with a hectic and stressful life. Though it is practically impossible to completely alter our life style but at least we should ensure that our body has a highly efficient combat force of antioxidants by including plenty of antioxidant rich food items like fruits and vegetables in our diet along with regular exercise.


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