Free radicals attack all human organisms by destroying our cells, and this contributes to aging. Thanks to a computer simulation, researchers have discovered a particularly dangerous type of free radical and have learned how they form. These results may lead to a better understanding of aging.
Every time we breathe in oxygen, some of it is converted into free radicals, which are able to damage our cells. Associate professor Ilia Solov’yov and postdoc, Ph.D., Peter Husen from the University of Southern Denmark are trying to understand the formation of free radicals, specifically a type called superoxide’s. “We wanted to find out exactly which factors lead to the formation of these superoxides. We knew as much that the formation occurs in a cluster of proteins but the rest was a mystery. And of course it is interesting to find out the details, because it is only when we know them that we can hope to be able to control and perhaps even prevent the formation of superoxides,” said Solov’yov.
The researchers created super computer simulations showing how an oxygen molecule can penetrate specific locations in a protein cluster. From there, it can absorb an extra electron and turn into a superoxide. Until this point, the process has been unknown as microscopes are unable to see this miniscule process. There is a limit on how much one can see through a regular microscope when it comes to observing small proteins and molecule activity. Modern computer models allow scientists to do much more, such as building virtual proteins and examining them easily on-screen.
Antioxidants are able to neutralize free radicals, which destroy our cells and cause DNA damage. That being said, we are unable to produce or eat enough foods with antioxidants to stave off the aging process.