Revisiting an age-old question regarding oxidative stress

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Significant advances in maintaining health throughout life can be made through a clear understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that regulate aging. The Oxidative Stress Theory of Aging (OSTA) is probably the most well studied mechanistic theory of aging and suggests that the rate of aging is controlled by accumulation of oxidative damage. To directly test the OSTA, aging has been measured in several lines of mice with genetic alterations in the expression of enzymatic antioxidants. Under its strictest interpretation, these studies do not support the OSTA, as modulation of antioxidant expression does not generally affect mouse life span. However, the incidence of many age-related diseases and pathologies is altered in these models, suggesting that oxidative stress does significantly influence some aspects of the aging process. Further, oxidative stress may affect aging in disparate patterns among tissues or under various environmental conditions. In this review, we summarize the current literature regarding aging in antioxidant mutant mice and offer several interpretations of their support of the OSTA.Graphical abstractHighlightsDirect testing in mouse models has challenged the oxidative stress theory of aging.Life span is largely unaffected by genetic modulation of antioxidants.Antioxidants do alter the development of age-related disease and pathology.Can we differentiate “longevity” from “pathological” effects in aging studies?

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