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Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Mar 1;48(5):642-55. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.12.015. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

Update on the oxidative stress theory of aging: does oxidative stress play a role in aging or healthy aging?

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1
The Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78229, USA. salmona@uthscsa.edu

Abstract

The oxidative stress theory of aging predicts that manipulations that alter oxidative stress/damage will alter aging. The gold standard for determining whether aging is altered is life span, i.e., does altering oxidative stress/damage change life span? Mice with genetic manipulations in their antioxidant defense system designed to directly address this prediction have, with few exceptions, shown no change in life span. However, when these transgenic/knockout mice are tested using models that develop various types of age-related pathology, they show alterations in progression and/or severity of pathology as predicted by the oxidative stress theory: increased oxidative stress accelerates pathology and reduced oxidative stress retards pathology. These contradictory observations might mean that (a) oxidative stress plays a very limited, if any, role in aging but a major role in health span and/or (b) the role that oxidative stress plays in aging depends on environment. In environments with minimal stress, as expected under optimal husbandry, oxidative damage plays little role in aging. However, under chronic stress, including pathological phenotypes that diminish optimal health, oxidative stress/damage plays a major role in aging. Under these conditions, enhanced antioxidant defenses exert an "antiaging" action, leading to changes in life span, age-related pathology, and physiological function as predicted by the oxidative stress theory of aging.

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