Cardiovascular health disease (CVD) kills more people than any other disease in the world. Although significant effort has gone into establishing the mechanism behind CVD, much remains unclear. What researchers do believe though, is that excessive production of free radicals, particularly reactive oxygen species (ROS), play a key role.
ROS are generated as a byproduct of normal cell metabolism, and in larger amounts from dysfunctional cells. Problems arise when ROS production exceeds our natural antioxidant supply, and oxidative stress results. Our heart is one big muscle and mitochondria – one of the major producers of ROS – are abundant in cardiac muscle cells. These muscle cells work tirelessly, contracting and relaxing with every heartbeat, more than 115 000 times per day. All this work requires oxygen, and results in large amounts of ROS formation and – without enough counteracting antioxidants – oxidative stress.
He and Zuo in their article published in the Interactive Journal of Molecular Sciences review current knowledge of ROS in cardiovascular conditions as well as current challenges. Of particular note is that therapy targeting ROS shows signs of being a promising treatment option.