free radical oxidation

Free radicals skin damage and aging

Oxidative damage to cells is thought to be a causative factor in disease and aging. Aside from trauma, the process of death, at the cell level, is oxidation. The death of cells is caused by an invading molecule called a “free radical” which invades cells causing their death. These invading free radicals are part of our environment, that puff of cigarette smoke, the chemical preservatives in our foods, and water, anything that is foreign to the body can, potentially, become a free radical. Free radicals skin production is part of our body free radicals generation whenever immune- system becomes active for example during infections or inflammatory disorders such as inflammatory acne vulgaris, which may lead to follicular epithelium damage and disruption. However, in roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans), blocking the production of the naturally occurring antioxidant superoxide dismutase has recently been shown to increase lifespan [1].

These are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron. A molecule is stable and harmless when the electrons are in pairs. If single, they are unstable and can potentially do damage. When an electron is taken from another molecule it becomes unstable and the attacking molecule becomes stable. This process damages various cell structures.

Free radicals are naturally occurring and an important part of biological functions such as immunity, inflammation, growth and repair and implicate processes such as aging or diseases such as hair loss, acne and photoaging. While UVA and UVB implicate in photoaging due to expression of matrix metaloproteinases, MMP-1, and increased interluekin-1-α production which leads to destructive effect of neprilysin on dermal collagen and elastin fibers, free radical insult is another expedient in the skin aging. Free radicals can have negative effects when they damage proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. They are normally held in balance in biological systems by antioxidant defense mechanisms. Environmental insults, infections, smoking, radiation and sunlight can also cause the formation of free radicals.

UVA and UVB in photo aging due to free radicals generation

UVA and UVB in photoaging due to free radical generation

Free radicals also increase production of vital hormones or chemical messengers like prostaglandins and cytokines disturbing hormonal balance and invoking inflammatory cascades, two axes whose insulting merger culminate in acne vulgaris by altering amount and composition of skin surface lipids and sebum output. It can be seen that we need free radicals to maintain health. It is these free radicals skin overproduction that is a problem. Results have demonstrated that the overexpression of catalase, an enzyme involved in the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide, increased both the average lifespan and maximum lifespan of mice by 20% [2].

Free radicals production by air pollutants and skin damage

The skin exposed to an air pollutant: top left) unexposed normal skin, top right) an increase in the skin mitochondria, bottom left) an increase in endoplasmic reticulum, bottom right) autophagosomes are seen.

How free radicals skin damage occurs

Simplistically, when a free radical skin penetration occurs, the body and the immune system do  not function optimally, different things may occur:

  • Allergies may occur upon attack of free radicals to the cell.
  • Breaking off membrane proteins and thus destroying the cells identity.
  • The cell may die as a result of attack of free radicals to the fat globule in the membrane. This may lead to skin’s aging. Akin to this aging mechanism is what occurs in  untreated acne scars.
  • Fusing together membrane lipid and proteins hardening the cell membrane and making it brittle and nonfunctional.
  • Should the free radical attack the nucleus of the cell, which has the reproductive map of the cell (DNA) neoplasia may develop.

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