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Role of oxidative stress in neurodegeneration: recent developments in assay methods for oxidative stress and nutraceutical antioxidants.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Qu├ębec, Canada G1K 7P4.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced in the course of normal metabolism and they serve important physiological functions. However, because of their high reactivity, accumulation of ROS beyond the immediate needs of the cell may affect cellular structure and functional integrity, by bringing about oxidative degradation of critical molecules, such as the DNA, proteins, and lipids. Although cells possess an intricate network of defense mechanisms to neutralize excess ROS and reduce oxidative stress, some tissues, especially the brain, are much more vulnerable to oxidative stress because of their elevated consumption of oxygen and the consequent generation of large amounts of ROS. For the same reason, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of brain cells is highly susceptible to structural alterations resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction. Several lines of evidence strongly suggest that these effects of ROS may be etiologically related to a number of neurodegenerative disorders. Nutraceutical antioxidants are dietary supplements that can exert positive pharmacological effects on specific human diseases by neutralizing the negative effects of ROS. The present communication concentrates on a review of recent concepts and methodological developments, some of them based on the results of work from our own laboratory, on the following aspects: (1) the complex interactions and complementary interrelationships between oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and various forms of neural degeneration; (2) fractionation and isolation of substances with antioxidant properties from plant materials, which are extensively used in the human diet and, therefore, can be expected to be less toxic in any pharmacological intervention; (3) recent developments in methodologies that can be used for the assay of oxidative stress and determination of biological activities of exogenous and endogenous antioxidants; and (4) presentation of simple procedures based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of the resulting amplicon for investigations of structural alterations in mtDNA.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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