Free radicals and their toxic metabolic effect
A radical is any molecule or atom that contains one or more unpaired electrons. Radicals are normal products of various metabolic pathways. Such interactions can cause both acute and chronic dysfunction, but can also provide essential control of redox regulated signaling pathways. The potential roles of endogenous or xenobiotic-derived free radicals in several human pathologies have stimulated extensive research linking the toxicity of numerous xenobiotics and disease processes to a free radical mechanism. In recent years, improvements in analytical methodologies, as well as the realization that subtle effects induced by free radicals and oxidants are important in modulating cellular signaling, have greatly improved our understanding of the roles of these reactive species in toxic mechanisms and disease processes.
How Free Radicals Affect Your Body
Free radicals as causes and consequences of diseases and toxicities
Free radicals are generated in biological systems both as a result of normal cellular aerobic metabolism as well as from abnormal reactions stimulated by some disease processes and xenobiotics (Sies 1986). Although free radicals can explain the pathology of many toxicities and disease processes (Roberts et al. 2010), their causal role in specific disorders continues to be difficult to determine. For example, the same free radical-mediated changes that may cause injury also occur secondary to that injury. This includes lipid peroxidation that clearly damages membranes but will also increase subsequent to cell death. Thus, determining whether free radicals are a cause, effect or both in toxicity and disease is problematic.