The redox state as a correlate of senescence and wasting and as a target for therapeutic intervention

Blood. 1998 Jul 1;92(1):59-67.


The loss of body cell mass (bcm) in senescence and wasting is poorly understood. We now show that the plasma cystine/acid soluble thiol ratio, ie, an indicator of the redox state, is increased in old age and cancer patients and correlated with a decrease in bcm and plasma albumin. A cause/effect relationship was suggested by two independent studies with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). NAC caused an increase in the bcm of healthy persons with high plasma cystine/thiol ratios, and treatment of cancer patients with NAC plus interleukin-2 caused an increase in bcm, plasma albumin, and functional capacity. Albumin levels below 680 micromol/L were associated with an increase in body water. Our studies suggest that the shift in the redox state may contribute to the loss of bcm and may provide a quantitative guideline for therapeutic intervention. Treatment of cancer patients with thiol-containing antioxidants may improve the quality of life.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / administration & dosage*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Cell Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cystine / blood
  • Female
  • Free Radical Scavengers / administration & dosage*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Oxidation-Reduction* / drug effects
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / blood


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Serum Albumin
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Cystine
  • Acetylcysteine