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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2011, Article ID 809696, 9 pages
Review Article

Hydroxyl Radical and Its Scavengers in Health and Disease

Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA

Received 30 March 2011; Accepted 7 June 2011

Academic Editor: Kenneth Maiese

Copyright © 2011 Boguslaw Lipinski. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It is generally believed that diseases caused by oxidative stress should be treated with antioxidants. However, clinical trials with such antioxidants as ascorbic acid and vitamin E, failed to produce the expected beneficial results. On the other hand, important biomolecules can be modified by the introduction of oxygen atoms by means of non-oxidative hydroxyl radicals. In addition, hydroxyl radicals can reduce disulfide bonds in proteins, specifically fibrinogen, resulting in their unfolding and scrambled refolding into abnormal spatial configurations. Consequences of this reaction are observed in many diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer and neurological disorders, and can be prevented by the action of non-reducing substances. Moreover, many therapeutic substances, traditionally classified as antioxidants, accept electrons and thus are effective oxidants. It is described in this paper that hydroxyl radicals can be generated by ferric ions without any oxidizing agent. In view of the well-known damaging effect of poorly chelated iron in the human body, numerous natural products containing iron binding agents can be essential in the maintenance of human health. However, beneficial effects of the great number of phytochemicals that are endowed with hydroxyl radical scavenging and/or iron chelating activities should not be considered as a proof for oxidative stress.