Development of organ dysfunction associated with sepsis is now accepted to be due at least in part to oxidative damage to mitochondria. Under normal circumstances, complex interacting antioxidant defense systems control oxidative stress within mitochondria. However, no studies have yet provided conclusive evidence of the beneficial effect of antioxidant supplementation in patients with sepsis. This may be because the antioxidants are not accumulating in the mitochondria, where they are most needed. Antioxidants can be targeted selectively to mitochondria by several means. This review describes the in vitro studies and animal models of several diseases involving oxidative stress, including sepsis, in which antioxidants targeted at mitochondria have shown promise, and the future implications for such approaches in patients.
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