Skin Care and Treatments of Melbourne Dermatology - The Free Radical Cascade / The Importance of Antioxidants

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The Free Radical Cascade / The Importance of Antioxidants

The abbreviated chemical reactions below illustrate the accumulation of free radical damage and oxidative stress.

For our first free radical, we’ll use the oxygen radical, written with an asterisk (*) indicating it contains very high energy.

The O* is of such high energy that it immediately combines with whatever structure it first touches.

  • In combining with this structure, it damages it and, in the process, another free radical is created.
  • This second free radical, being also of very high energy, combines with the first structure it touches.

The process continues as shown below.

  1. O* + cell membrane / damaged cell membrane + A*

    cell membrane protects integrity of cell.

  2. A* + mitochondria / damaged mitochondria + B*

    mitochondria produces energy for the cell.

  3. B* + DNA damaged DNA + D*

    DNA is the genetic mechanism of the cell which directs all cellular function and reproduces itself to create another cell — damaged DNA leads to a cancerous or malignant cell.

  4. D* + cellular protein/collagen/elastin / damaged elastic tissue (wrinkles) + E*

This process continues forever as cellular structures are damaged by free radicals and more free radicals are created.


However, an antioxidant combines with O* at the beginning of this process, neutralizing this entire cascade and preventing all of the ensuing damage.

For this reason, antioxidants are crucial to maintaining cellular function as we age (and, from the time of birth, we are all aging).


Below is a very simple drawing of a cell to illustrate the location of the cellular components mentioned above in the reaction describing damage from oxidative stress.

Any of the body’s cells could be used to illustrate these general principles, but a skin cell is illustrated here.

Remember that a skin cell, being near the surface of the body, is bombarded with additional stressors from the environment that fail to reach other cells far within the organism’s interior.

IS Clinical Skin Cell Diagram

Related Skin Care Information, Products and Expert Discussions

Dr. Albert Laporte

Cell Structure / Oxidative Damage / The Importance of Antioxidants

Cosmetic Dermatology Newsletter Summer 2007

Sources of Free Radical Damage

Protecting Against Free-Radical Damage in the Skin


IS Clinical : IS Clinical Topics : Oxidative Stress and Free Radical Damage :

Theories of Aging : The "Free Radical" Theory of Aging : "Neurohumoral" Theory of Aging : The Cause of Disease : Inflammation : Sources of Free Radical Damage : The Skin and Free Radical Damage : Definition of Oxidative Stress : Antioxidants Can Be Harmful : The Free Radical Cascade / The Importance of Antioxidants : Cell Structure / Oxidative Damage / The Importance of Antioxidants : The Importance of The RIght Antioxidants (Highly Individualized Medically Managed Protocols) : The Lifespan Curve : Lifespan Curve A — Neanderthal Wo(Man) : Lifespan Curve B — Sewers and Household Plumbing : Lifespan Curve C — Contemporary Wo(Man) : Lifespan Curve D — Virtually Utopic? : Hindsight and Empowered Knowledge: From Curve C to D : Oxidative Stress and Free Radical Damage — Reference List : Oxidative Stress/Damage Theory of Aging Disproven by Study :


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