Research reveals what turns free radicals on

Apr 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: Four billion-year-old chemistry in cells today

More information: UOW Big Ideas Festival

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Supercomputers ensure plastics peg out later

Nov 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

Dec 08, 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 ...

Recommended for you

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics

6 hours ago

Long before humans figured out how to create colors, nature had already perfected the process—think stunning, bright butterfly wings of many different hues, for example. Now scientists are tapping into ...

New catalyst converts carbon dioxide to fuel

8 hours ago

Scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago have synthesized a catalyst that improves their system for converting waste carbon dioxide into syngas, a precursor of gasoline and other energy-rich products, bringing ...

Bullet 'fingerprints' to help solve crimes

8 hours ago

Criminals don't just have to worry about their own fingerprints these days: because of a young forensic scientist at The University of Western Australia, they should also be very concerned about their bullets' ...

User comments : 0