October 01, 2006
Superoxide Assay To Accelerate Aging Studies

A new method to measure superoxide promises to accelerate the study of how free radicals cause aging.

The OSU scientists, in collaboration with Molecular Probes-Invitrogen of Eugene, Ore., found a chemical process to directly see and visualize "superoxide" in actual cells. This oxidant, which was first discovered 80 years ago, plays a key role in both normal biological processes and when it accumulates to excess the destruction or death of cells and various disease processes.

"In the past, our techniques for measuring or understanding superoxide were like blindly hitting a box with a hammer and waiting for a reaction," said Joseph Beckman, a professor of biochemistry and director of the OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center. "Now we can really see and measure, in real time, what's going on in a cell as we perform various experiments."

This technique allowed them to learn in 3 months as much as they did in the previous 15 years. So that's a factor of 60 speed up in the rate at which they can figure out certain aspects of how cells work.

In research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, which is one of his lab's areas of emphasis, Beckman said they have used the new technique to learn as much in the past three months about the basic cell processes as they did in the previous 15 years. Hundreds of experiments can now rapidly be done that previously would have taken much longer or been impossible.

Theories of aging causes which cast the mitochondrion as a sort of Achilles Heel will be testable using this new method of measuring superoxide.

"This will enable labs all over the world to significantly speed up their work on the basic causes and processes of many diseases, including ALS, arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and others," Beckman said. "And it should be especially useful in studying aging, particularly the theory that one cause of aging is mitochondrial decay."

The rate of advance of biological science and biotechnology is accelerating. Previously untestable hypotheses are becoming testable. Previously highly time-consuming methods of measurement are being replaced with faster, cheaper, and more automated methods of measurement as new sensors and new assays are developed. This is why I'm optimistic that many who are alive today will live to see the defeat of aging.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 October 01 09:22 PM  Biotech Advance Rates


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