Significance: Aerobic organisms must exist between the dueling biological metabolic processes for energy and respiration and the obligatory generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) whose deleterious consequences can reduce survival. Wide fluctuations in harmful ROS generation are circumvented by endogenous countermeasures (i.e., enzymatic and nonenzymatic antioxidants systems) whose capacity decline with aging and are enhanced by disease states.
Recent advances: Substantial efforts on the cellular and molecular underpinnings of oxidative stress has been complemented recently by the discovery that reductive stress similarly predisposes to inheritable cardiomyopathy, firmly establishing that the biological extremes of the redox spectrum play essential roles in disease pathogenesis.
Critical issues: Because antioxidants by nutritional or pharmacological supplement to prevent or mitigate disease states have been largely disappointing, we hypothesize that lack of efficacy of antioxidants might be related to adverse outcomes in responders at the reductive end of the redox spectrum. As emerging concepts, such as reductive, as opposed, oxidative stress are further explored, there is an urgent and critical gap for biochemical phenotyping to guide the targeted clinical applications of therapeutic interventions.
Future directions: New approaches are vitally needed for characterizing redox states with the long-term goal to noninvasively assess distinct clinical states (e.g., presymptomatic, end-stage) with the diagnostic accuracy to guide personalized medicine.