Aging may protect blood vessels from oxidative stress

22 Jul

Researchers have found that blood vessels adapt during the aging process to reduce damage

from oxidative stress.

older woman gardening
The researchers believe their study provides evidence that the natural tendency of the body is to adapt to

oxidative stress during healthy aging.

Oxidative stress has been linked to many diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, some

cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other age-related conditions.

Oxidative stress damages cells by attacking DNA, proteins and lipids. It arises from an imbalance

between generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and their removal by antioxidants.

In a study published in The Journal of Physiology, researchers at the University of

Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, describe how tests on mice reveal aging actually appears to

offer significant protection against oxidative stress.

They say their findings suggest healthy aging triggers an adaptive response that

counteracts the effect of oxidative stress on blood vessels.

Senior author Steven Segal, a professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, explains that

while ROS are important for controlling cell function, if levels get too high they lead to oxidative

stress which can lead to problems with cell growth and reproduction.

Oxidative stress led to abnormally high calcium in blood vessels of younger mice

To examine how aging affects blood vessels exposed to oxidative stress, the researchers studied

the endothelium or inner lining of small, resistance arteries in mice. These blood vessels regulate

the amount of blood that enters tissue and control systemic blood pressure.

The team used male mice aged 4 months and 24 months, equivalent to the early 20s and mid-60s in

human years.

First they studied the endothelium at rest, in the absence of oxidative stress. Then they

simulated oxidative stress by adding hydrogen peroxide.

The results showed that 20 minutes of oxidative stress resulted in abnormally high levels of

calcium in the endothelium cells of the younger mice compared to the older mice.

“This finding is important,” Prof. Segal says, “because when calcium gets too high, cells can be

severely damaged.”

Further tests showed that 60 minutes of oxidative stress led to a seven-fold increase in cell

death in the endothelium of the younger mice compared to the older mice.

The researchers suggest the findings show that with age, the endothelium adapts to protect cells

against abrupt increases in oxidative stress, ensuring that the arteries of older individuals can still


Prof. Segal says they were most surprised when they found the endothelium of the older mice

appeared to be much less perturbed by oxidative stress. He concludes:

“This finding contrasts with the generally held belief that the functional integrity

of the endothelium is compromised as we age.

Although more studies are needed to identify the mechanism by which the endothelium adapts to

advanced age, our study provides evidence that the natural tendency of the body is to adapt to

oxidative stress during healthy aging.”

Earlier this year, Medical News Today learned about a new biodegradable material for making artificial blood vessels that

appears to be more compatible with body tissue than those currently used. The team that is

developing it – from Vienna University of Technology and Vienna Medical University – has

successfully tested it in rats, and believes it will lead to greater use of artificial blood vessels

in human patients.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD

Copyright: Medical News Today