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UCL study questions basis for treatment of diseases including cancer and arthritis

One of the methods for treating diseases that include cancer, arthritis and radiation sickness is challenged by new research by a team of scientists at University College London (UCL). The current orthodoxy on the role played by oxygen free radicals in the development of a number of diseases is called into question by the UCL team in a paper to be published in the 26th February edition of Nature, in research that may hold profound implications for the standard approach of the medical profession and pharmaceutical industry in treating these conditions.

It is currently held that oxygen free radicals, atoms or groups of atoms produced by white blood cells, are responsible, if produced in excess, for the production of conditions such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis and many others, including cancer. That is why, since the 1970s, medical practice and the pharmaceutical industry have sought to develop drugs to stop the production of free radicals and mop them up with antioxidants (substances capable of preventing the oxidation of organic molecules) as part of the process of treating such diseases.

Following extensive study, the paper categorically discounts the primary evidence upon which this theory is based, and suggests that instead we need to look at other potential treatments, and that specifically treatments should move towards the regulation of enzymes released from neutrophil leukocytes, the most numerous of the white blood cells.

"White blood cells produce oxygen free radicals, and the process by which they do so is essential for the efficient killing of microbes," says Professor Tony Segal of the Centre for Molecular Medicine within UCL's Department of Medicine, one of the authors of the research. "However, people in whom this process is defective are prone to severe, chronic and often fatal infections. This fact has led to the presumption that the oxygen free radicals themselves are highly toxic, and that if they can kill org
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Contact: Dominique Fourniol
d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk
44-207-679-9728
University College London
25-Feb-2004


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