Oxidative Stress

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A major source of many diseases in humans can be traced back to oxidative stress (Uttara, Singh, Zamboni, Mahajan, n.d) Diseases like cancer, arthritis, chronic inflammation and many others (Uttara et al, n.d). There are many different sources of oxidative stress which are simply unavoidable such as, polluted air, sunlight, some foods, and many more (Betteridge, 2000). So the best solution to deal with oxidative stress is countering as much of our intake of it as possible with foods high in antioxidants. Many foods have been researched for their effect of lowering the damage caused by oxidative stress, many of them being vegetables. More specifically, ginger and turmeric have been studied for being powerful antioxidants which are substances that help with dealing with oxidative stress that we are exposed to in our everyday lives. If ginger and turmeric are good at doing their jobs individually, it’s possible they could synergize with each other and produce an even greater protective effect on our bodies when they are consumed together.

This would lower the amount of damage our cells take from oxidative stress which would result in lowering the risk of many diseases we might get, which ultimately leads to us living a healthier and better life overall. This experiment will test the synergistic effects of turmeric and ginger powder in C. Elegans that are exposed to UV radiation which is known to be a major source of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for some of the DNA damage the human body experiences over the course of its lifetime. Which is the reason why it is responsible for many of the diseases we have to endure as well (“Oxidative Stress: Definition” n.d). More specifically, oxidative stress is the process of free radicals damaging the body. Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen and also have an unpaired valence electron. This means they are very reactive, highly unstable and willing to steal an electron from a nearby molecule to fill its own outer shell. When these dangerous molecules come into contact with the human body, they produce a domino effect that starts with one unstable molecule stealing an electron from one our body’s molecules which then creates a new free radical that seeks to steal another electron etc. (“NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. n.d.).

Free radicals create this harmful cycle which if the body is exposed to too many free radicals for too long, it can create extensive and irreversible DNA damage that could even lead to cancer. We are exposed to one huge source of free radicals every day, the sun. A major reason why UV radiation is acting as the source of oxidative stress in this experiment is because it is the practical source since we are exposed to it everyday. Ultra violet rays are produced from the sun as well as tanning beds and they have the ability to increase the risk of someone developing skin cancer due to DNA damage. (“What Is Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation? n.d.) There are three types of UV radiation that comes from sunlight, ultraviolet A (UVA) which can dive deep into the skin and contributes to aging of the skin, ultraviolet B (UVB) which is the source of the majority of sunburns people experience, and ultraviolet C (UVC) which by far, is the most dangerous and damage inducing type of UV radiation. Luckily, we are not affected by it because of the protection of the earth’s ozone layer (“What Is Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation? n.d.).

The distinguishing factor between the three types of UV rays are their wavelengths (“Skin Cancer Foundation. n.d.). UVA has the longest wavelength, then UVB and finally UVC with the shortest wavelength. Shorter wavelengths have more energy and are capable of inflicting more damage than longer wavelengths which make them more dangerous to the human body. Anything under the earth’s ozone layer is safe from UVC rays, but UVA and some UVB rays still get through (“Skin Cancer Foundation. n.d.) Exposure to these rays can cause mutations in DNA contained in our cells. When you get a sunburn, the redness and the hot feeling on your skin is the body’s attempt at trying to repair the damaged cells (“Skin Cancer Foundation. n.d.) After the sunburn goes away there may still be left over mutated cells that will continue to multiply and eventually lead to a type of skin cancer called Melanoma (“Skin Cancer Foundation. n.d.) Preventing DNA damage is possible with the help of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that disrupt free radicals’ attempts of dealing a lot of damage to the body. As stated before, free radicals steal electrons from surrounding molecules so when they come into contact with our bodies they could cause a domino effect where one molecules keeps stealing from the next, causing a lot of trauma for the body’s cell structures.

Antioxidants serve to stop that chain reaction by offering up the valence electron the free radical seeks to complete its outer shell and therefore neutralize the threat (“Antioxidants: In Depth. 2016) With current research, it is confirmed that antioxidants are key factor in dealing with oxidative stress, there are many different types of antioxidants like selenium, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and more. They are all very important in protecting and nourishing the body which is why people who consistently eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables are less prone to several diseases, as well as look and feel younger and healthier (Conner and Grisham, 1996) The free radicals they are exposed to like everyone else do not cause as much damage because they have a good ratio of how many antioxidants they consume to free radicals they exposed to, the higher quality and more powerful antioxidants they consistently consume, lessens free radical induced cell structure damage. Which means strong antioxidants like turmeric and ginger may help the body even more against sources of free radicals like UV radiation. We must first understand what inflammation is in order to figure out how turmeric and ginger are related to it. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. There are two types of inflammation which are acute and chronic.

Acute inflammation is caused whenever the body receives an injury or identifies some sort of foreign threat like bacteria in an infection and the symptoms of inflammation occur shortly after which is redness, swelling and heat in the affected area. There are proteins called cytokines which signal to other cells around them to react in a certain way to inflammation. They tell the immune system to help the damaged area with white blood cells which helps the body to recover faster. A specific type of cytokine called inflammatory cytokines are responsible for the redness and swelling in the body whenever there is an injury or threat detected (“What Is Arthritis? n.d.) Chronic inflammation is when the body thinks there is a threat and inflammatory cytokines act up all the time to create a constant state of low inflammation which results in many autoimmune diseases. The cytokines tell the white blood cells to attack the threat in the body, but sometimes there are no pathogens or foreign bacteria to attack or the perceived hazard is actually not a threat to the body at all. This leads to diseases like arthritis where there is constant swelling in the joints because the body secretes inflammatory cytokines that tell the immune system to attack a threat that does not exist in the joints area (“Turmeric. n.d.).

Free radicals and oxidative stress are a major factor in some of the chronic inflammation that occurs in the body. They work to amplify inflammation by increasing the number of pro inflammatory cytokines, which ruins the natural balance of the body’s inflammatory process and leads to more damage to the cells overall (“Turmeric. n.d.). If there was a way to lower the amount of inflammatory cytokines that are secreted by the body, then people would experience less inflammation overall. Turmeric and ginger work to lower symptoms of inflammation. Turmeric is a root that is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is also sometimes used as a home remedy for some sicknesses that include rashes, acne, and osteoarthritis (“Turmeric: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions n.d.). Turmeric has been known to be a strong antioxidant because of the inflammation fighting compound it contains called curcumin. Curcumin works by blocking some of the proinflammatory cytokines the body secrets which prevents some inflammation from occurring and persisting (“Turmeric: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions n.d.). Turmeric may be effective at lowering the amount of oxidative stress that the body experiences from outside sources, but some of the human body’s own cell functions can produce oxidative stress as well like intense weight lifting in athletes. Some of the long term soreness associated with weight training is attributed to inflammation of the muscles which ginger has been proven to assist with (“Health Benefits of Ginger for Arthritis” 2016).

Turmeric protects against outside sources of oxidative stress while ginger protects against some of the oxidative stress the body inflicts to itself on the inside. The two mixed together might produce a very powerful antioxidant effect, which may be witnessed within C. Elegans. C. elegans are a type of roundworm or nematode that grow to “1 mm in length, and lives in the soil (especially rotting vegetation) in many parts of the world, where it survives by feeding on microbes such as bacteria (Corsi, 2006) It is a model organism that is being used for its ability to absorb substances through its skin, (Corsi, 2006) which is a trait that will be utilized to absorb the turmeric and ginger. Their movement is dictated by external stimuli such as food availability, chemical changes, and thermal changes (Stephens, Johnson-Kerner, Bialek, Ryu, 2010). Another factor that plays into their movement is their genetic code (Stephens et al, 2010), Since all of the external factors are being controlled and kept the same, the only explanation for changes in movement would be a change in the worms’ DNA and therefore, the amount of oxidative stress the worms went through. In conclusion, oxidative stress is the root of many diseases and pains in humans.

It is also one of the major factors of chronic inflammation and turmeric and ginger have each been proven to individually lessen the symptoms of inflammation through their antioxidant characteristics in different ways. They may have a synergistic effect that further lessens the symptoms of oxidative stress which will be tested in C. Elegans that will be exposed to UV radiation which has been known to inflict free radical induced DNA damage. Hypothesis: If UV radiation produces oxidative stress in C. Elegans and turmeric and ginger lower the amount of oxidative stress an organism experiences then the groups of C. Elegans that are exposed to ginger and or turmeric in the UV radiation chamber will be healthier then the group of C. Elegans who are not exposed to ginger and or turmeric in the UV radiation chamber and therefore maintain more of their natural movement which is due to the fact that group with normal agar in UV will not have any antioxidant type of agent that would lower the oxidative stress they would experience.

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