General Question

shalom's avatar

Is it true that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have only one electron and that causes them to be unstable and thus try to grab an electron from other molecules?

Asked by shalom (374 points ) June 25th, 2010

I know that we can google it up but I want confirmation about it apart from wikipedia and the book and research paper I’m reading. It’s important that I illustrate the fact accurately as I’m rewriting a scientific paper for general reading on the therapeutic effects of hydrogen and how it neutralizes the most damaging ROS.

I’m trying to put it in layman’s term how ROS comes about and part of it would require me to explain the premise of why atoms need to be stable.

I would appreciate any and all personal knowledge anyone would have about ROS and what it would take to stabilize them. I have a lot of research but I would like to hear how things are explained in layman’s terms and correlate that back to points I would like to expand from the research papers.

I am not a professional and was trained in the humanities so you can understand my predicament. Those with background in microbiology, chemistry who can help would be most appreciated.

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3 Answers

BhacSsylan's avatar

You’re close, but it’s not that they have one electron. Usually they need one electron (you can have species that need more, but one is more typical). The ‘Reactive’ bit comes from the fact that the energy of an electron drops significantly when it is paired. When the oxygen is down one electron, it has an odd number (7), and so one of them is unpaired. This unpaired one has a lot of energy, and grabbing another electron would allow it to pair and become less energetic. It’s that force, paired with oxygen’s normal affinity for electrons, that makes the molecule highly reactive.

As for the number of electrons, you can actually have almost any number and have a radical (which is an unpaired electron, by the way). However, 7 is the most common and tends to have the higher reactivity.

shalom's avatar

Maybe I should add that the readings I’m doing is related to cancer research, gerontology/senescence including Alzheimer’s, age-related blindness, cerebral / myocardial infarction. Most of the stuff I got are translated versions from Chinese and Japanese and were not cited properly so I have to dig stuff up and correlate them to find the authenticity/validity. I am doing editing work for a friend but I’m getting pretty interested.

It would be great if any of you would volunteer to help me flesh out my ideas and confirm my readings. It gets hard coz sometimes a lot is lost in translation and omitted for brevity so some context is lost. Not having a background in chemistry and biology makes it pretty hard for me when they tell a point with the assumption I have the context. I hope you guys can understand what I’m saying.

Should I post other questions I have as new questions or continue posting as part of this discussion?

BhacSsylan's avatar

I would suggest new questions. It’s a shame that there aren’t more answers for this, but there always is the chance that a particular question will be more well known. Keeping posting on this will probably only alert you and me to it, unless other people are following. New questions will alert everyone.

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