OxyFile #39

Medical Biology 62:71-77, 1984

Oxygen Radicals: A Commonsense Look at Their Nature and Medical 
Importance

B. Halliwell

From the Department of Biochemistry, University of London King's 
College, London, U.K.

Abstract:

"Oxygen radicals" are now popular subjects for research papers; 
several hundred are published each year.  Many of these pass 
rapidly into oblivion, joining the great mass of unread 
scientific literature that clogs library shelves and dilutes 
important research findings to an increasingly great extent.  The 
basic chemistry of oxygen-derived species was established years 
ago by radiation chemists (1,6), but "superoxide" is still 
endowed with miraculous properties by the uninitiated.  
Demonstration that the action of a disease or toxin in vivo 
produces increased lipid peroxidation (a currently-popular 
scientific activity) means nothing more than the fact that its 
action produces increased lipid peroxidation: it does not 
automatically follow that the lipid peroxidation causes the 
damaging effects of the drug or disease.

The purpose of this paper is to explain:
i)    what oxygen radicals are
ii)   the evidence that oxygen radicals are important in vivo
iii)  what needs to be done to establish a role for oxygen 
      radicals and lipid peroxidation in human disease.