Updated: 2/9/2018

Free Radical Injury

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Overview
  • Free radicals are chemical compounds with unpaired electrons in the valence shell
    • a cascade is initiated whereby a free radical steals an electron from a cellular molecule
    • the intial free radical is quenched but has created another free radical
    • results in cell membrane peroxidation, DNA and protein damage
  • Causes of free radical generation
    • radiation exposure
    • metabolism of drugs (phase I)
      • e.g.) acetaminophen
    • redox reactions
      • naturally as part of oxidative ATP generation
    • nitric oxide
    • transition metals
      • e.g.) copper and iron
    • leukocyte oxidative burst
    • reperfusion after anoxia 
      • a major cause of injury after thrombolytic therapy
    • carbon tetrachloride exposure 
      • solvent used in dry cleaning industry
      • leads to hepatocyte damage and resultant fatty change
  • Degradation of free radicals occus by
    • enzymes
      • catalase
      • superoxide dismutase
      • glutathione peroxidase
    • spontaneous decay
    • antioxidants
      • vitamins A, C, E

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