An overview of methods for assessment of free radical activity in biology

Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 Nov;58(4):1001-6. doi: 10.1017/s0029665199001317.


Assays which purport to assess free radical activity in biological systems are multiple. However, despite numerous published descriptions of new methods and modifications of methods to assess free radical activity in biological materials, there is still a lack of reliable techniques for quantification of activity in vivo. Analysis of a number of related indicators and use of a variety of approaches appears the only reliable way to evaluate these processes in vivo. In studies of free radical generation by contracting skeletal muscle we have attempted to use a variety of indicators, including measurement of endogenous antioxidant levels, measurement of indirect indicators of free radical activity (e.g. products of lipid peroxidation, DNA oxidation or protein oxidation) and, where possible, measurement of direct indicators of free radical activity by electron spin resonance techniques. In view of the relative lack of specificity of many available techniques, caution should be exerted in evaluating the numerous examples of isolated single measures of free radical activity which are present in the scientific literature.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / analysis
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Free Radicals
  • Humans
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress*


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radicals
  • DNA