It has been hypothesized that age-dependent accumulation of oxidative damages in living organisms may be the main cause of ageing process. It might be possible to control this damage accumulation through controlling the level of ROS production in mitochondria. It is important to stress that ROS production should be controlled, not stopped, so that ROS can still fulfill a number of crucial biological functions. For instance they fight bacteria and viruses, both directly – via elimination of pathogens, – and indirectly – via regulation of the immunological response to infection through triggering apoptosis (cell death).
Antioxidants are a well−developed pharmacological approach to fight against ROS. A possible role of antioxidants in controlling ageing process has widely and for a long time been discussed with ambiguous conclusions, ranging from the statement of the American biochemist Prof. Bruce Ames and colleagues on finding a new anti−ageing therapy with a 100% positive result to D. Howes’s implication of the utter barrenness of this method, and, therefore, of total failure of Harman’s “free radical” hypothesis. According to Dr. Skulachev the antioxidant−based ageing control approach has some significant flaws.
The “ideal” antioxidant should be specifically targeted to mitochondria where ROS are produced and it should effectively remove not all the ROS but just their excess. It is also important for an antioxidant not to be toxic and not to be recognized and eliminated by cell enzymes.
With these criteria fulfilled, a successful anti-oxidant compound should be able to prevent/repair oxidative damage in organism and prevent/treat many age-related disorders across various therapeutic areas.