News of the WeekChemistry

Possible New Anti-Inflammatory Agent

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Science  08 Oct 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5438, pp. 209-210
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5438.209a

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Mammalian cells produce superoxide radicals during the conversion of food to energy and also as an aide to fighting microbes. But in excess amounts, these highly reactive molecules contribute to the tissue damage in inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, and to the reperfusion injury that occurs when blood flow is reestablished to tissues that have had their supply cut off, by a stroke or heart attack, for example. Normally, the body protects itself against superoxide by deploying a family of enzymes called superoxide dismutases (SODs) that breaks down the molecule. On page 304, researchers now described how a small molecule mimic of SOD reduces tissue damage in animal models of inflammation and reperfusion injury. The drug, which is both very specific for superoxide and stable, may point the way to new therapies for these conditions.