SEQC Spanish Society of Laboratory Medicine

Spanish Society of Laboratory Medicine

Oxidative stress and free radicals, much more than eye-catching claims for cosmetic products

In the XVII Conference of the Scientific Committee of the Spanish Society of Laboratory Medicine

• Oxidation of cells, popularized by some beauty products, offers valuable information to clinical laboratory professionals

• During its conferences, the Scientific Committee of the SEQCML will analyze the role that oxidative stress can play as a clinical marker in cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, among others

• Clinical laboratory professionals will also update their knowledge regarding the diagnosis of anemia, which affects especially women of childbearing age

Madrid, March 19, 2019 - A purely technical expression such as "free radicals" -which refers to those molecules that have an unpaired electron in one of their atoms- has leapt from biochemistry to popular culture at the hands of the cosmetic industry. Creams, serums, and other products proclaim an ability to slow down the oxidation generated by these free radicals, which results in the aging of the skin.

Howeverthese oxidative processes are not just skin-deep, but affect the whole of our organism. That is why knowledge of them is important for health professionals who work in different branches of medicine. This is what Guillermo Sáez Tormo, professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry of the University of Valencia and Clinical Head of the Analysis Service of the Dr. Peset University Hospital in Valencia, hopes to convey during the course 'Physiopathological and Clinical Implications of Oxidative Stress', which will be offered at the XVII Conference of the Scientific Committee of the Spanish Society of Laboratory Medicine (SEQCML), which will take place in Madrid on March 28 and 29.

Free radicals, due to that loose electron, have the capacity to induce oxidation processes in living beings. When these processes cannot be counteracted by the body itself, we speak of "oxidative stress" - another word that has passed from the laboratory to the street via beauty products. This term, beyond its advertising uses, is very useful in the clinic, since it serves to characterize the processes resulting from some diseases. According to Professor Sáez Tormo, "experimental evidence shows that oxidative stress biomarkers increase significantly in different pathologies and are expressed at a systemic level, which gives them value as clinical markers." However, adds the specialist, "there is a need to update and inform health professionals about their scope and true clinical usefulness".

Oxidative stress can be defined as an imbalance between the oxidation induced in the body by free radicals and the efficiency of the body´s own antioxidant mechanisms (which decay with age). In the words of Professor Sáez Tormo, "behind this oxidative stress are a whole series of degenerative processes and pathologies usually associated with aging." Among these diseases, "metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, inflammatory processes, and cancer stand out due to their epidemiological importance and clinical and social impact". In all these diseases, the indicators of oxidative stress are "effective markers of their clinical evolution", according to the professor. That is, they can help doctors predict the prognosis and monitor the evolution of these diseases.

"The products of molecular oxidation induced by free radicals, in addition to helping assess the degree of oxidative stress both in vivo and in vitro, provide information on the status and pathophysiological evolution of inflammatory and degenerative processes related to this imbalance that the cells suffer and that affect various organs and systems of our organism, through the oxidative modification of lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids ", concludes the specialist.

Improving the evaluation of anemia in women of childbearing age

Oxidative stress is not the only topic of interest that will be analyzed during the courses held in Madrid during the XVII Conference of the Scientific Committee of the SEQCML. Throughout the seven courses that will be presented, clinical laboratory professionals will be able to update their knowledge in several areas, such as food-related analyses. This, precisely, is the focus of the course entitled 'The role of the laboratory in the assessment of nutritional status', coordinated by Dr. Ramón Deulofeu, whose conference will focus on false negatives in the detection of anemia and how to avoid them.

In recent years, the clinical laboratory has developed new techniques to assess the nutritional status of patients, while patients with special nutritional needs have increased due to surgical processes or chronic intestinal pathology. These groups can be added to that of women of childbearing age, which is one of the most interesting because of the frequency with which cases of anemia occur.

"Ferritin is a very good marker for iron reserves in the body, but it has the disadvantage that it increases in cases of inflammation, regardless of the iron levels the patient actually has in his or her body." So explains Dr. Deulofeu, who highlights that the detection of anemia is of great importance, if we take into account that iron deficiency is the most frequent nutritional deficit in our population, especially among women of childbearing age. "Therefore, laboratories are making an effort to assess ferritin independently of the patient's inflammatory status through mathematical algorithms, and actually detect those patients at risk of developing anemia," he concluded.

The course - coordinated by Dr. Deulofeu - will also discuss the collaboration of the hospital Nutrition and Dietetics units with the clinical laboratory directed at assessing the nutritional status of admitted patients and adjusting their diet to their needs. "There are multiple studies that show that poor nutritional status prolongs the hospital stay, increases postoperative complications such as infections, and increases re-admissions, as it significantly affects the patient's immune status," the doctor points out.