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Health pioneers research into `free radicals' revolution.

Byline: Darren Devine

A RESEARCH team at the University of Wales, Bangor, is launching a new study into free radicals in the hope it could help produce treatments for brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

Led by the international expert in organic chemistry Dr Anna Croft the team have started research into the powerful molecules known as free radicals.

As well as protecting us from illness by attacking viruses and bacteria free radicals also cause ageing, illness and eventually death.

Dr Croft says her study is about, ``Knowing how the world works, knowing how we work.

``There are major implications to studying free radicals, for both curing and preventing disease and also designing drugs.''

Free radicals can achieve chemical reactions in one step that normally take scientists in the lab ten times as long and many days to mimic. Harnessing that ability will revolutionise chemistry and improve medical science, says Dr Croft.

Free radical molecules can exist on their own, but they are sometimes found within the structure of certain enzymes or proteins, which have either attracted them or, in some cases, produced them themselves.

Commercially, enzymes' ability to harness free radicals is used to speed-up chemical reactions in industry and medicine. For example, enzymes can speed-up digestion of stains in biological washing powder.

Dr Croft said, ``It (the study) even helps us to create new, environmentally-friendly processes for making all manner of materials.''

The seven-strong research team will use innovative techniques to examine enzymes. Modern computers also allow Anna's team to create ``virtual'' free radicals, testing how they behave in simulations.

By using a sophisticated Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine the team takes snapshots of the products of the minute free radical molecules.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 14, 2003
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