- Daily News for Senior Citizens

  FRONT PAGE • Aging • Health • Alzheimer's - Mental • Nutrition • Medicare & Medicaid • Politics  • Fitness  • Social Security • Alerts • Sex Health • Features • Retirement • Elder Care  >Search  >Senior Links


Senior Journal: Today's News and Information for Senior Citizens & Baby Boomers

More Senior Citizen News and Information Than Any Other Source -

• Go to more on Health & Medicine or More Senior News from on the Front Page

Follow on  and 

E-mail this page to a friend!

Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Antioxidants Used as Anti-Aging Treatment May Also Kill Cancer Cells; Be Better Than Chemo

Antioxidants "are potentially better chemotherapeutic agents than ones currently used", the researchers say

KJ Myung, Senior Investigator, Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch, Division of Intramural Research, NHGRI. Photo by Maggie Bartlett , NHGRI

Three antioxidants - resveratrol, genistein and baicalein - are used or studied as anti-aging treatments and to treat heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis and chronic hepatitis; resveratrol found in red wine is in 44 clinical trials as potential treatment for even Alzheimer’s disease

By Larry Thompson
Chief, NHGRI Communications and Public Liaison Branch

March 20, 2012 - Antioxidants have long been thought to have anti-aging properties, primarily by protecting a person's genetic material from damaging chemicals. The story, however, now appears to be much more complicated.

National Institutes of Health researchers from two institutes and one center have demonstrated that some antioxidants damage DNA and kill cells instead of protecting them. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 19, 2012, also suggest that this surprising capability may be good for treating cancer, but may prove cautionary when using antioxidant-based medicines to treat other disorders, such as diabetes.

"It's an unexpected discovery," says Kyungjae Myung, Ph.D., a senior investigator in the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), and the senior author on the report. "It may have important clinical applications in treating people with cancer, especially if they have failed previous treatments."


Related Archive Stories


Early Success in Curing Melanoma in Mice Spurs Mayo Vaccine Development

Success with melanoma adds to Mayo Clinic's growing portfolio of experimental cancer vaccines - March 19, 2012

Links below are to archives for the Nutrition sections

Women Consuming Moderate Amount of Alcohol Significantly Lower Stroke Risk

Ischemic stroke risk 21% less in women drinking up to 15 grams of alcohol per day - March 15, 2012

Coffee Antioxidant Properties May Protect Women Against Uterine Cancer

Drinking more than four cups of coffee daily cut risk by 25%; coffee fast-emerging as protective against a number of diseases- see video - Nov. 28, 2011

High Levels of Antioxidant Alpha-Carotene from Fruits, Vegetables Found to Extend Life

Higher alpha-carotene concentration lowers risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer and all other causes - Nov. 22, 2010

Possible Relief for Senior Citizens from Glaucoma, Eye Diseases with Green Tea

Study indicates green tea consumption could benefit the eye against oxidative stress - Feb. 19, 2010

Scientists Discover Possible Achilles Heel of Influenza: Our Old Friends Antioxidants

Opens the door for new drugs that could prevent severe flu-related lung damage... and another reason to drink red wine - Oct. 29, 2009

Claim of Increased Melanoma Risk from Antioxidants Not Supported by New Study

Study examined antioxidants and melanoma association among 69,671 women and men and found none - Aug. 17, 2009

Resveratrol in Red Wine May Achieve Same Longevity Results as Starvation Dieting

Study important because it suggests that resveratrol and caloric restriction may govern the same master genetic pathways related to aging - June 4, 2008

New Study Confirms Red Wine Antioxidant Kills Cancer

Researchers pinpoint how resveratrol induces pancreatic cancer cell death - March 26, 2008


Read the latest news
> Health & Medicine
Today's Headlines


Many people attempt to boost their levels of antioxidants by eating fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, or by taking vitamins such as A, C, E and beta-carotene, among others. Some research suggests that antioxidants soak up compounds called free radicals produced by burning oxygen during normal respiration. Free radicals cause random chemical reactions that can damage cellular components, including DNA, leading to disease. By adding antioxidants to the diet, many people hope to slow down the process that some believe contributes to the normal process of aging.

Dr. Myung did not set out to challenge this anti-aging strategy, and the new findings may not fundamentally alter the approach; much more study will be needed. Instead, his lab studies DNA repair, the enzyme systems within a cell that fix mistakes and other damage that routinely accumulate in DNA as cells simply live and divide to make daughter cells. Researchers know that naturally occurring defects in DNA repair can lead to a number of disorders, including cancer.

To study DNA repair, Dr. Myung's group sought a new way to easily identify chemicals that damage DNA and then use those chemicals to study cellular repair mechanisms, a basic research question. Using a laboratory grown cell line from human kidneys, the NHGRI team, which included Jennifer Fox, Ph.D., lead author and post-doctoral fellow, developed a novel laboratory test, or assay, that readily shows when a chemical exposure damages DNA.

With the test developed, Dr. Myung's team formed collaborations with two other NIH research groups: The first was with what is now the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS). Over the last several years, a team led by Christopher Austin, M.D., head of the NCATS laboratories, has developed high-throughput chemical screening systems using robotics. Dr. Austin agreed to use Dr. Myung's assay to rapidly test thousands of chemicals for their ability to damage DNA. But what chemicals should they test?

In 2008, the NIH Chemical Genomics Center, then part of NHGRI and now at NCATS, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed an initiative called Tox21 to develop high-throughput screening tests that measure cellular harm caused by environmental chemicals. The Tox21 team created a library of some 2,000 compounds and agreed to test them against Dr. Myung's assay. The NHGRI researchers also added a commercially available chemical collection to the screening runs for a total of some 4,000 chemicals.

The screening runs produced surprises, identifying 22 antioxidants that damaged DNA. Three of the antioxidants - resveratrol, genistein and baicalein - are currently used — or being studied — to treat several disorders, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteopenia and osteoporosis and chronic hepatitis, as well as serving as an anti-aging treatment.

Not only did the antioxidants damage the DNA, the researchers found, but also, in dividing cells (such as in tumors), the antioxidants can be lethal, killing the disease-causing cells.

"This is what's cool about biology," Dr. Austin said. "Just when we think we understand something, it turns out to be more complex than we thought. Not only did the NHGRI team produce a novel way to measure DNA damage, but their test has given us insights into the effects of chemical compounds that were not seen in more conventional strategies."

The discovery opens up several new lines of research. As a first step, the collaborators are dramatically expanding the number of compounds — more than 300,000 — that will be tested with the new assay. The Tox21 team also has decided to include the NHGRI test in its standard screen for biological harm produced by environmental chemicals.

The clinical implications for these findings are more complicated. This initial discovery is only in lab-grown cell lines, not even in intact organisms. The relevance for humans has yet to be demonstrated.

Still, there is plenty of work already underway. Other researcher teams had launched various studies of these DNA-damaging antioxidants in various diseases. For example, 44 studies are currently listed in for resveratrol, which is found in many foods, including red grapes and wine, peanuts and chocolate. The studies focus on treating Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, inflammation, colon cancer, multiple myeloma, and testing other anti-aging strategies, among others. The newly reported study does not suggest that resveratrol in red wine is harmful; the dose is probably too low to be significant, Dr. Myung said.

Researchers also have launched 43 studies on genistein, including trials to treat cancers of the prostate, pancreas, bladder, breast, kidney and skin (metastatic melanoma) and as adjunct treatments for rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Even though the antioxidants damaged the DNA, the researchers reported that the chemicals did not cause genetic mutations, another surprise. "Because they don't cause genetic mutations, antioxidants may be useful for treating cancer," Dr. Myung said. "Standard chemotherapy mutates the tumor's DNA, speeding its evolution and sometimes allowing it to escape the toxic treatment intended to kill it. This leads to multi-drug resistance in some cancer patient's disease."

To test whether the antioxidants might help, the NHGRI team borrowed some multi-drug resistant cancer cells from Dr. Michael Gottesman, a National Cancer Institute researcher and NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research. Although these cells are very resistant to anti-cancer drugs, treatment with resveratrol appeared to sensitize the cancer cells, leading to their death. "Resveratrol," Dr. Myung said, "could prove useful in treating multi-drug resistant cancers."

The findings do raise concerns about using antioxidants to treat disorders, as treatment with high doses may cause unexpected DNA damage that leads to other problems. "Clearly," Dr. Myung said, "much more study will be needed."

>> To read updates to this story or post comments – click here.

>> Read the complete research report on the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – click here.

This report Courtesy of National Human Genome Research Institute


> Medical Malpractice,

> Nursing Home Abuse,

> Personal Injury

Our Experienced Lawyers Can Help

Beth Janicek, Board Certified Personal Injury Attorney"We win because we care, we prepare and we have no fear," Beth Janicek, board certified personal injury attorney


Free Consultation on your case.

Call Now Toll Free


or Send Email

More at our Website



Search for more about this topic on

Google Web

Keep up with the latest news for senior citizens, baby boomers


Click to More Senior News on the Front Page




Published by New Tech Media -

Other New Tech Media sites include,,,, etc.