Do free radicals and superoxide species contribute to cell ageing?

George VanTreeck gvt at
Wed Feb 17 17:07:44 EST 1993

Free radicals may have something to do with aging. Please be patient, the
first part of what follows might not seem like it's related to aging. But
the connection will become very obvious.

It's been hypothesized since the 1970s that damage to chloraphyll by
ultraviolet light  is an impetus to some species of trees to replace
their leaves or needles. Some think that carotnoids may inhibit the amount
of free radical reactions, protecting the chrolaphyll.

Some pine trees, like the Ponderosa pine, shed about half their needles every
year. A species of Bristlecone pine, Pinus Longeava, sheds less than one
twentieth of their needles every year. And the Bristlecone pine grows at
higher elevations than any other species of tree, where the intensity of
ultraviolet light is much stronger! Thus, one might ask what protects the
Bristlecone's chloraphyll so much better? And one might also ask if this is
related to the fact that Bristlecone pine are the oldest living plants on
this planet? For example, there are specimens about 5,000 years old and
still alive.

The vitamin A derivative used for treating acne and thought to reverse skin
aging is a carotnoid, as are vitamin A, D, E, and K.

I'm attempting to grow Bristlecone pine, Pinus Longeava, (the oldest growing
species of Bristlecone) in my house in the NE of the US. I'd someday like to
do a chemical analysis of the carotnoids and evaluate their quenching

I have a plant about a 20cm high. I've had hundreds of seedlings die. And the
one plant doesn't seem to be extremely healthy. The roots seem to be very
suspectable to mold -- yet they like a lot of water. And they seem to lack
resistance to bugs. Perhaps, that is why there are no specimens of this
plant in the arboretums on the East coast.

I also have a similar sized specimen of Giant Seqouia, which grow to ages
over 2,000 years old. My Giant Redwood seeds also failed to grow. But
it will probably be years before any of my plants are big enough to take large
enough samples for chemical analysis. I'll probably pay some graduate student
to do the analysis for me, as I now work in the computer industry and getting
very rusty at chemistry.

George Van Treeck
Digital Equipment Corporation
vantreeck at

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