Public Release: 

Clemson chemists discover new way antioxidants fight debilitating diseases

Findings presented at American Chemical Society Meeting

Clemson University

CLEMSON-- Cancer, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are often linked to DNA damage that occurs when metal ions in the body such as iron and copper produce reactive oxygen compounds that damage human cells. Studies have shown antioxidants that neutralize this activity and that occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, green tea, garlic and onions can be effective at preventing DNA damage.

A Clemson team of chemists, presenting its research at the 234th annual American Chemical Society national meeting in Boston Aug. 19-24, has found a new mechanism for antioxidant activity: the antioxidants bind to naturally present iron and copper in the body to prevent formation of reactive oxygen compounds that damage DNA.

"Our studies have shown that antioxidants even at low concentrations found in these foods bind to iron and copper and prevent DNA damage," said lead investigator and chemist Julia Brumaghim. "This goes a long way in understanding how antioxidant supplements might help treat or even prevent these debilitating illnesses."

The group is now testing its findings in bacterial cells and will test human cells next. Clemson graduate students on the project include Erin E. Battin, Nathan R. Perron and Ria R. Ramoutar. Research is funded through a grant from the American Heart Association.


Clemson University chemists are presenting 40 papers at the society meeting on a wide range of subjects. Other topics include detection and quantification of uranium in groundwater, convertion of lipid feedstocks such as poultry fat to biodiesel and conjugated polymer dot nanoparticles.

The Clemson University Department of Chemistry offers undergraduate and graduate programs. With a tenure/tenure-track faculty of 24, research activities include projects in the traditional sub-disciplines of analytical, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry as well as in a broad range of interdisciplinary and nontraditional areas -- polymer and materials chemistry, solid-state chemistry, bioanalytical chemistry, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry, computational chemistry, chemical physics, chemical education and other areas. For more information go to

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