Research reveals what turns free radicals on

April 23, 2013
In just one of the practical applications of free radical research, Professor Stephen Blanksby (left), has been working with BlueScope Steel to help develop the long-lasting building materials of the future.

(Phys.org) —UOW chemistry researchers have revealed what turns free radicals on...and off again in an article recently published in Nature Chemistry.

Professor Stephen Blanksby and UOW , David Marshall, in collaboration with Professor Michelle Coote and her team at the Australian National University, have discovered that activity can be turned on and off in a certain class of using a simple 'switch', such as changing the pH by adding either an acid or a base.

Professor Blanksby says free radicals cause us to age, make us sick and eat away at our – causing everything from the paint on our cars to clothes pegs on our washing line to deteriorate and fail – and these findings pave the way for the development of new and more efficient ways to place free radicals under our control.

"Free radicals have a bad reputation for their extraordinary, and in many cases, indiscriminate . For example, uncontrolled proliferation of free radicals in the body can damage essential , such as proteins and DNA, leading to diseases like cancer."

However, Professor Blanksby, who is the Director of the UOW node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Free-Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, says: "if we can harness and control this extraordinary reactivity, we can put the radicals to work for us, such as in making polymers and plastics we use everyday."

Quantum chemical calculations undertaken as a part of this study also hint at the possibility that nature may already be employing the same mechanism discovered by the researchers to protect biomolecules from free radical damage.

Hear Professor Blanksby talk about his exciting research at the UOW Big Ideas Festival on Wednesday 8 May.

Explore further: 'Superbowl' kicks off drug delivery revolution

More information: UOW Big Ideas Festival

Related Stories

Supercomputers ensure plastics peg out later

November 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from The Australian National University have used supercomputers to reveal how plastic items like the humble clothes peg can be designed to withstand the sun for longer.

Researchers use banned herbicide to prolong worms' life

December 8, 2010

It sounds like science fiction – Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and his student Dr. Wen Yang, researchers at McGill's Department of Biology, tested the current "free radical theory of aging" by creating mutant worms that had increased ...

Free radicals crucial to suppressing appetite, study finds

August 28, 2011

Obesity is growing at alarming rates worldwide, and the biggest culprit is overeating. In a study of brain circuits that control hunger and satiety, Yale School of Medicine researchers have found that molecular mechanisms ...

Recommended for you

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

Isolation of Fe(IV) decamethylferrocene salts

August 29, 2016

(Phys.org)—Ferrocene is the model compound that students often learn when they are introduced to organometallic chemistry. It has an iron center that is coordinated to the π electrons in two cyclopentadienyl rings. (C5H5- ...

Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

August 26, 2016

How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China ...

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

August 24, 2016

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.