Nav: Home

Electron accelerators reveal the radical secrets of antioxidants

March 19, 2019

Osaka, Japan - In a groundbreaking series of experiments, an Osaka University researcher has demonstrated an exciting new method for understanding the power of antioxidants to protect us from harmful free radicals. Professor Kazuo Kobayashi has used linear electron accelerators, sometimes called "linacs," to fling electrons at speeds not previously seen in biological research. When the electrons slammed into water molecules in the samples, highly reactive free radicals were produced. This work will be extremely valuable for understanding the body's naturally occurring antioxidant molecules and proteins, such as ascorbic acid, also called vitamin C.

A free radical is a molecule with an unpaired electron, which makes it very eager to react. Some biological processes, including photosynthesis, harness energic free radicals to power vital chemical reactions. However, when a free radical gets loose, it can be extremely damaging to DNA and other important biomolecules. Rogue radicals can also be created by radiation, including from the sun's UV light. To avert damage from free radicals, a circulating antioxidant molecule or protein in the body can absorb the extra electron. For many years, scientists could only guess at the exact pathway of this process, since the transfer of the electron from the free radical to the antioxidant occurs extremely fast, in times measured in trillionths of a second.

In the current research, to watch the charge transfer in action, electrons were accelerated by a linac in a process called pulse radiolysis. Since biological samples almost always contain water, the electrons could be counted on to slam into H2O molecules, leading to the rapid and reliable generation of free radicals inside the sample. Although the merits of this innovation are widely applicable, it took many years to gain acceptance in biological fields.

"Linacs are well-known in the field chemistry and physics," Professor Kobayashi explains, "but less familiar to researchers from other fields. Some skeptics thought they are too complex and damaging to biomolecules to be useful. However, this research demonstrates how valuable linacs can be for understanding a wide range of biological processes."

This method can not only elucidate many uncertain biological reaction mechanisms that include electron transfers, but also help develop new medications for preventing cell damage.
-end-
The work is published in Chemical Reviews as "Pulse Radiolysis Studies for Mechanism in Biochemical Redox Reactions" at DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.chemrev.8b00405.

Osaka University

Related Electrons Articles:

Deceleration of runaway electrons paves the way for fusion power
Fusion power has the potential to provide clean and safe energy that is free from carbon dioxide emissions.
Shining light on low-energy electrons
The classic method for studying how electrons interact with matter is by analyzing their scattering through thin layers of a known substance.
Ultrafast nanophotonics: Turmoil in sluggish electrons' existence
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behavior of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time.
NASA mission uncovers a dance of electrons in space
NASA's MMS mission studies how electrons spiral and dive around the planet in a complex dance dictated by the magnetic and electric fields, and a new study revealed a bizarre new type of motion exhibited by these electrons.
'Hot' electrons don't mind the gap
Rice University scientists discover that 'hot' electrons can create a photovoltage about a thousand times larger than ordinary temperature differences in nanoscale gaps in gold wires.
Electrons used to control ultrashort laser pulses
We may soon get better insight into the microcosm and the world of electrons.
Supercool electrons
Study of electron movement on helium may impact the future of quantum computing.
Two electrons go on a quantum walk and end up in a qudit
There is a variety of physical systems that can be used to implement a separate quantum bit, but significantly less research has been done into systems of several qubits or qudits.
Radiation that knocks electrons out and down, one after another
Researchers at Japan's Tohoku University are investigating novel ways by which electrons are knocked out of matter.
Controlling electrons in time and space
A new method has been developed to control electrons being emitted from metal tips.

Related Electrons Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".