old age
Nanotechnology could help address cell disorders that lead to premature ageing and other problems by tackling free radicals in the body.Reuters

An Indian study shows that nanowires made of vanadia can reduce cell damage in the human body.

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore used vanadium-based material that mimics a natural antioxidant enzyme to control the free radicals in the body.

Vanadium oxide or vanadia is a form of vanadium, an inorganic element.

This breakthrough can help develop drugs that delay ageing, cardiac disorders, and several neurological problems like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, says a lab press release.

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) that include a variety of molecules and free radicals are produced during normal cellular metabolism. They play an important role in cell processes. But when the level of ROS is elevated, it can lead to damage of cellular components, including proteins, lipids, and DNA.

Oxidative stress is caused by high levels of ROS that the anti-oxidant defences of the body cannot address. This leads to conditions ranging from a simple premature greying of hair to serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, arthritis and kidney disorders.

"Many of the antioxidant-based drugs used to control ROS, also produce ROS, though at small proportions. So we wanted to concentrate on a mechanism that mimics the natural detoxification pathways," said professor G Mugesh and Patrick D'Silva, who led the research team, reports the Press Trust of India.

Their work has been published in Nature Communications.

"The human body has numerous mechanisms to scavenge ROS, and specifically hydrogen peroxide. However, when people are suffering from a disease, the production of ROS shoots up, and the natural scavenging mechanisms are not able to cope with. In such cases, we may have to control ROS levels artificially," said D'Silva.

The vanadia nanowire exhibited properties of a natural enzyme that controls ROS levels in the body.

Vanadium is a trace mineral that is found in many foods. Scientists believe that the human body may need vanadium in tiny amounts. In fact, studies have shown that it can help control blood sugar but clinical trials have been few. However, high doses of vanadium are thought to be unsafe.

The best food sources of vanadium are mushrooms, shellfish, black pepper, parsley, dill weed, beer, wine, grain and grain products and artificially sweetened drinks.