Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules produced by oxygen metabolism. Free radicals have one or more unpaired electrons and to return to a situation of equilibrium they are forced to "steal" an electron from another molecule, causing its oxidation. In this way, a chain oxidation mechanism is triggered, since the molecule from which the radical has stolen the electron, will also become unstable and in turn will oxidize other molecules to achieve stability. For this reason, free radicals are called oxidizing molecules.
THE POSITIVE ROLE OF FREE RADICALS
Oxidants, in small quantities, are essential elements for the growth and development of the organism. They play a key defense role as they help destroy pathogens that attack our immune system. The problem arises when the balance between antioxidant defenses and free radical production is broken, as an accumulation of the latter is created. An excessive concentration of free radicals causes oxidative stress which contributes to the origin of various serious diseases.
THE PROBLEM OF FREE RADICALS
Normally, our body sets up defense mechanisms against free radicals and consequently naturally fights oxidative stress. Causes of different nature can cause an increase in the amount of free radicals in the body and decrease the antioxidant capacity of the cells. Free radicals can attack molecules that are essential to the life of the cell itself, such as proteins, DNA, phospholipids or nucleic acids, causing serious cell dysfunction. In turn, these elements, damaged, cause the onset of diseases of the cardiovascular system, rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases up to tumor genesis.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF OXIDATIVE STRESS?
The main causes of oxidative stress are:
WHAT RELATIONSHIP IS BETWEEN FREE RADICALS AND MITOCHONDRIA?
Mitochondria are organelles present in large quantities within the cell, they are considered power plants and their efficiency is synonymous with the health and vitality of the organism. In addition to producing energy, mitochondria seem to be among the main responsible for the formation of free radicals. When mitochondria weaken, or are damaged, they no longer carry out the breathing process properly. Free radicals are thus formed in the mitochondria with possible impairment of cellular activity.
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