Free radical research

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Free radicals play crucial roles in human physiology and disease progression. Our interests focus on nitric oxide (NO) - a potentially protective agent when produced in the correct quantities in the right place and at the right time - and oxygen-centred radicals that are generally regarded to be damaging and cytotoxic. In healthy individuals, the potentially toxic effects of oxygen-centred radicals are countered by a battery of antioxidant defences, which are prone to adapt to environmental influences, such as oxygen concentration, macronutrients (fats, sugars) and micronutrients (e.g. polyphenols).

The Free Radical Research team is fortunate to occupy state-of-the-art laboratories in the Centre for Health Science, Inverness. The laboratories host the very latest technology for measuring free radicals and their characteristic cellular ‘footprints’. We also conduct functional studies in vitro and in vivo to establish the impact of new therapeutics at both the cellular level and in terms of clinical measures.

Ongoing projects link closely with the Active Health Exercise Laboratory, the Genetics and Immunology Group and the Lipidomics Research Facility within the Division of Biomedical Sciences.

Ongoing contract research is centred on measurement of a wide range of metabolites and markers in biological samples, with a special focus on those associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.

Focus areas currently content

Focus areas currently

Imbalance in free radical production in favour of harmful radicals is a feature of diabetes that might be fundamental in many of the worst aspects of the disease. We are currently involved in a number of projects to investigate the cellular mechanisms that underlie free radical production, the link to inflammatory processes that exacerbate the harmful effects, and antioxidant and nutritional interventions that might help to manage these consequences.

The mitochondria that power our cells are an important source of oxygen-centred free radicals, particularly when cellular respiration is sub-optimal. Far from always being harmful it is becoming apparent that these free radicals are crucial in developmental processes at the very earliest stages in life. These fundamental processes, however, likely stay with us throughout our lifespan and could potentially drive cell death associated with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Dr James Cobley has several projects ongoing to determine the mechanisms and potential impacts of these processes in both development and ageing.

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Our research activities cover the following specialist areas:

  • Antioxidant properties and clinical potential of N-acetylcysteine as an antithrombotic therapeutic in type-2 diabetes.
  • Mechanism of action and therapeutic potential of phytochemicals in diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.
  • The role of intermediates in formation of advanced glycated end product in oxidative stress related to type-2 diabetes.
  • Mechanism of action of endocannabinoids in platelet function
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of oats in patients with type-2 diabetes.
  • The relevance of plasma nitrite as a marker of endothelial function.
  • Mechanism of action and potential therapeutic targets for novel nitric oxide donor drugs linked to nano-dots.
  • Role of oxidative stress in nanoparticle toxicity.
  • Role of oxidative stress in the cardiovascular effects of pollution.
  • Biological actions and clinical potential of hybrid nitric oxide donor drugs in cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.