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Panminerva Medica 1999 December;41(4):335-9

Copyright © 2000 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Free radicals: important cause of pathologies refer to ageing

Venarucci D. 1, Venarucci V. 1, Vallese A. 1, Battilà L. 1, Casado A. 2, De La Torre R. 2, Encarnation Lopez Fernandes Ma 2 

1 Center of Clinical Chemistry I.N.R.C.A., Scientific Institute for Hospitalization and Therapy, Fermo (Italy); 2 Centro De Investigationes Biologicas, Madrid (España)


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Free radical are highly reactive chemical species with an unpaired electron in an atomic or molecular orbital. In biological systems, the most important free radicals are superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide; in the presence of transition metals such as iron, copper and manganese both these free radicals produce hydroxyl radicals. Free radicals attack proteins, nuclei acids and membranes containing large quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Because of their toxicity, the organism has developed ways to deactivate them. The superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD) catalyzes dismutation of the superoxide radical into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen hydrogen peroxide is in turn reduced to water and oxygen by peroxidase glutathione and catalase enzymes. The production of radicals in the brain is due to catecholamine metabolism such as dopamine and norepinephrine and is increased by the presence of transition metals and by a deficiency of antioxidant agents such as vitamin E. Two main groups of dementia exist in older age: the multi-infarctual dementias, caused by cerebrovascular disorders and the primary degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer, where no vascular disease is evident. Free radicals play an important role in Parkinson’s disease, in Alzheimer’s disease and in stroke. The value of SOD and CAT activity following the above mentioned degenerative diseases differ among the various studies carried out. In Alzheimer’s disease, the value of SOD activity probably increases in the neuropathologically involved areas. In stroke, the SOD value does not vary either in the ischemic area or in the peri-infarctual one during the first 24 hrs after lesion, while the CAT value decreases.

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