This recent paper in Circulation, from Arshed Quyyumi and colleagues at the Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute, can be seen as a culmination of, even vindication for, Â Dean Jones’ ideasÂ about redox biology.
Let’s back up a bit.Â Fruit juices, herbal teas, yogurts, even cookies are advertised as containing antioxidants, whichÂ could potentiallyÂ fight aging. This goes back to Denham Harman and the free radical theory of aging.Â [I attemptedÂ to explain this several years ago in Emory Medicine.]
We now know that free radicals, in the form of reactive oxygen species, can sometimes be good, even essential for life. So antioxidants that soak up free radicals to relieve you of oxidative stress: that doesn’t seem to work.
Dean Jones, who is director of Emory’s Clinical Biomarkers laboratory,Â has been an advocate for a different way of looking at oxidative stress. That is, instead of seeing cells asÂ big bags of redox-sensitive chemicals, look at cellular compartments. Look at particular antioxidant proteins and sulfur-containing antioxidant molecules such asÂ glutathione and cysteine.
That’s what theÂ Circulation paper does. Mining the Emory Cardiovascular Biobank, Quyyumi’s team shows that patients with coronary artery disease have a risk of mortality that is connected to the ratio of glutathione to cystine (the oxidized form of the amino acid cysteine).
How this ratio might fit in with other biomarkers of cardiovascular risk (such as CRP, suPAR, PCSK9,Â more complicated combinationsÂ and gene expression profiles, even more links here) and be implemented clinically areÂ still unfolding.