Free Radicals

1 Nov, 2018 540 Chemistry

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the properties of atoms or molecules with a single unpaired electron, which tend to be more reactive, keen to seize an electron to make it a pair. In the atmosphere, they are linked to reactions such as rusting. Free radicals came to prominence in the 1950s with the discovery that radiation poisoning operates through free radicals, as it splits water molecules and produces a very reactive hydroxyl radical which damages DNA and other molecules in the cell. There is also an argument that free radicals are a byproduct of normal respiration and over time they cause an accumulation of damage that is effectively the process of ageing. For all their negative associations, free radicals play an important role in signalling and are also linked with driving cell division, both cancer and normal cell division, even if they tend to become damaging when there are too many of them.

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  • Nick Lane 5 episodes
    Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London
  • Anna Croft No other episodes
    Associate Professor at the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham
  • Mike Murphy 2 episodes
    Professor of Mitochondrial Redox Biology at Cambridge University

Reading list

  • Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History
    Don Canfield (Princeton University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • Radical-Mediated Protein Oxidation: From Chemistry to Medicine
    Michael J. Davies and Roger T. Dean (Oxford University Press, 1998) Google Books →
  • Free Radicals in Organic Chemistry
    Jacques Fossey, Daniel Lefort and Janine Sorba (John Wiley & Sons, 1995) Google Books →
  • Radicals in Organic Synthesis: Formation of Carbon-Carbon Bonds
    B. Giese (Pergamon, 1986) Google Books →
  • Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine
    Barry Halliwell and John Gutteridge (Oxford University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World
    Nick Lane (Oxford University Press, 2002) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m0000xqd

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Auto-category: 546.78 (Free radicals and their reactions)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, we'll be talking about free radicals.