Natural mechanism against ageing discovered
Last Updated: Thursday, August 13, 2009, 00:00

Sydney: Scientists have discovered a natural defence mechanism against ageing.

They are amino acids working hard to protect our bodies from the ageing process caused by exposure to free radicals and oxygen.

Free radicals -- reactive chemical entities -- and other oxidative species are known to contribute to ageing, and are linked to cancers, heart disease and neuro-degenerative diseases.

"We have found that amino acids are remarkably resistant to damage by free radicals and oxygen," said Chris Easton, professor at the Free Radical Centre, Australian National University (ANU), who led the team.

"What many people don`t realise is that just by breathing in oxygen we are exposing our bodies to free radicals and oxidative stress which leads to ageing. But of course we need to breathe to stay alive, so it is one of the great paradoxes of life."

The group simulated exposure to hydrogen peroxide and oxygen the amino acids in our bodies would incur simply from continuing to breath and other normal biological functions, and were surprised to find a lower than expected level of free radical damage.

"Amino acids appear to be one of the most robust molecules that could have been used as the building blocks of life, far more robust than other common biological molecules like sugars and lipids," he said.

"Thankfully, living things seem to have evolved to use robust amino acids to make up the proteins essential to life, and have their own set of free radical neutralizing molecules called anti-oxidants."

The team also found that some types of amino acids are more resistant to oxidative damage than others.

The group intends to use this information to improve the performance of designer proteins used in industrial processes.

These results are scheduled for publication in the forthcoming edition of the Journal of American Chemical Society.


First Published: Thursday, August 13, 2009, 00:00

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