You may have heard of the phenomenon 'oxidative stress' in the passing. But what does it mean? It is defined as an imbalance between the damaging free radicals and our body's ability to fight them. Normally, when the cells in the human body use oxygen, it naturally produces something called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which plays a big role in maintaining overall health.
But when there is too much ROS in the system, it results in oxidative stress. Healthy cells of the body start dying off, causing illness such as cardiovascular diseases; neurodegenerative diseases like schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's; and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. Many of our lifestyle choices can cause oxidative stress, like smoking, drinking or lack of exercise.
Also, among these dangerous diseases is cancer, which thrives on the oxidative stress responses in the body. But scientists are now exploring the possibility of using oxidative stress to fight off cancer, instead of nurturing them. But how?
According to Medical News Today, researchers at the Georgia Cancer Centre and the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University are planning to use higher levels of ROS to kill off cancer cells. The details of their study are published in the journal Cell Metabolism. And here's what it says!
Normally, cancer cells require higher levels of ROS to grow and spread. But like healthy cells, they too will self-destruct, if the ROS levels increase. So a team of researchers led by Dr. Gang Zhou are planning to use a type of therapy called adoptive T cell therapy, which will increase ROS levels in cancer tumours, causing them to die off on their own.
The Results of the Study
It's a type of immunotherapy, where certain immune cells known as T cells can be used to kill cancer cells. The scientists worked on mice with colorectal cancer, after giving them a type of chemotherapy, which supports T cell action, they were given immunotherapy.
The scientists noticed that the production of glutathione, a cellular antioxidant which fights ROS was disrupted. The T cells also increased the production of cytokines, a type of proteins that causes inflammation.
These cytokines possess a property known as tumour necrosis factor alpha, which kills of cells.
The scientists found out that the tumour necrosis factor acted directly on the tumour cells, inducing ROS inside them. Soon after that, the tumours in the mice started shrinking. The researchers also noted that tumour necrosis factor alpha along with chemotherapy could help in destroying cancer cells. Cytokines can also stop the blood supply to the tumours, thereby stunting their growth.
With these encouraging results, the researchers are now urging the scientific community to focus attention on a better understanding of the functions of the T cells.