Canada Research Chair in Free Radical Chemistry
Tier 2 - 2011-06-01
University of Ottawa
Natural Sciences and Engineering
613-562-5800, ext./poste 2119
Studying free radical reactions relevant in chemistry, biology and medicine, and clarifying the role of free radical-derived oxidation in degenerative disease.
This research will provide a better understanding of the processes underlying the development of degenerative disease, leading to new compounds for its prevention and treatment.
Free radicals: cause or consequence of degenerative disease?
When we breathe our cells inadvertently produce oxygen-derived free radicals (also known as reactive oxygen species). Free radicals are unstable, highly-reactive molecules which can initiate the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol derivatives in cell membranes and the lipoproteins that circulate in our bloodstream. Lipid oxidation products react with DNA to induce mutations and are believed to contribute to the onset and progression of cancer, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and other degenerative conditions.
In the lab, radical-trapping antioxidants are well known to inhibit polyunsaturated lipid oxidation. However, in clinical trials, antioxidants like vitamins E and C have failed to demonstrate a clear role for antioxidants in the treatment or prevention of degenerative disease. These results have lead to the quintessential chicken or the egg question: Is free radical-derived oxidation the cause or consequence of degenerative disease?
Dr. Derek Pratt, Canada Research Chair in Free Radical Chemistry, aims to better understand the role of oxygen-derived free radicals in the onset and development of disease.
He is doing so by exploring the chemistry responsible for the formation of oxygen-derived free radicals and how they react with lipids and other cell constituents. He is also studying how radical-trapping antioxidants work and is developing new approaches to study their reactions.
Pratt’s research will help clarify the role of antioxidants in health and in disease prevention. It could also lead to the discovery and understanding of natural products and synthetic compounds that may be more effective than those we encounter in our diets.