Science Questions

Do mitochondria produce free radicals?

Sat, 7th Oct 2006

Part of the show How Cancers Form, Cancer Biology and Future Therapies

Question

James in Derby asked:

I've just been reading Superhuman by Robert Winston this week and never realised that mitochondria, the power houses of our cells, produce the majority of free radicals in our body.

Answer

There's no doubt about it, the best way to stop cancer would be to stop breathing or live in an oxygen-free environment. But it's not a good recipe for a lifestyle. Human beings, all organisms, are a compromise. We live in this very dangerous gas that does us a lot of damage, but it also happens to be the way that we generate energy, and mitochondria do indeed generate a lot of these oxygen radicals and they cause a lot of problems for us as we get older.

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