Role of free radicals in female reproductive diseases and assisted reproduction

Reprod Biomed Online. 2004 Sep;9(3):338-47. doi: 10.1016/s1472-6483(10)62151-7.


Infertility is a common problem experienced by many couples. Numerous treatments are available for female infertility. However, in some cases, the treatment is empirical in nature because the aetiology of infertility is not fully understood. Recently, reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been shown to have an important role in the normal functioning of reproductive system and in the pathogenesis of infertility in females. Reactive oxygen species may also play a role in other reproductive organ diseases of women such as endometriosis. Oxidative stress develops when there is an imbalance between the generation of ROS and the scavenging capacity of antioxidants in the reproductive tract. It affects both natural and assisted fertility. Because assisted reproductive techniques are used extensively in the treatment of infertility, it is critical to understand the in-vitro conditions that affect fertilization and embryo development. Treatments that reduce oxidative stress may help infertile women with diseases that are caused by this imbalance. Such strategies include identifying the source of excessive generation of ROS, treating the primary cause, and in-vitro and in-vivo supplementation of antioxidants. Research is in progress to identify the mechanisms that are involved in the aetiology of female reproductive diseases caused by ROS, and to create effective strategies that can counteract oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • DNA Damage / physiology
  • Endometriosis / drug therapy
  • Endometriosis / etiology*
  • Endometriosis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / metabolism
  • Genitalia, Female / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / drug therapy
  • Infertility, Female / etiology*
  • Infertility, Female / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species