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Reactive oxygen species, ROS, include oxygen ions, free radicals and peroxides of both organic and nonorganic origin. As a rule those are small molecules that possess a very high ability to interact with other substances (to oxidize them) due to the presence of an unpaired electron in the outer shell.
ROS are known to present serious danger for living cells and whole organisms (even though under certain conditions they can also fulfill some important cell functions, e.g. participate in regulation).
The primary forms of ROS are superoxide (O2-.) and its derivative hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). And even though a number of enzymes responsible for transformation of O2 into the primary forms of ROS were discovered in living cells, all of them proved to produce far less ROS than the respiratory chain of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondria of an adult absorb about 400 liters of oxygen per day converting it to water in the process of four- electron reduction. At the same time if even 0,1% of this oxygen reduction takes place in a chemically more simple single electron manner, it will result in 0,4 liters O2-., and this amount proves to exceed substantially all the other possibilities of ROS generation mechanisms. Experimental data prove these calculations to be true. In other words mitochondria constantly produce the amount of ROS sufficient to oxidize cell DNA, proteins and lipids thus causing their damage.
In 2004, a new substance called SkQ1 was synthesized in the group of professor Vladimir P. Skulachev in the Moscow State University. ” The name SkQ1 was given to the substance as the first representative of a particularly potent class of molecules named “SkQ” – the term introduced by the team to describe molecules containing ion Sk an a quinone.
A part of SkQ1 coined “Skulachev ion” or Sk functions as a molecular “locomotive” or “towing truck” carrying the other part of the molecule – an extremely active antioxidant plastoquinone – into mitochondria. Both theoretical calculations and experimental results showed that SkQ1 is delivered into mitochondria in an extremely targeted and efficient manner. The physics of mitochondrial membrane and the unusual properties of “Skulachev ions” direct SkQ1 into the inner leaflet of the inner mitochondrial membrane with high precision.
Presence of SkQ1 in mitochondrial membrane enables mitochondria to protect itself from reactive oxygen species (ROS) by breaking chain reaction of lipid destruction. This ability of our molecule to protect cells against oxidative stress plays a very important role in treating patients suffering from various age-related disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders and various ophthalmic conditions.
But our technology does not end there. Developing methods for effective delivery of mitochondrially addressed antioxidants into organism is another challenging task. Mitotech successfully solved this complex problem for a variety of therapeutic areas and designed several SkQ1-based pharmaceutical products going through various stages of clinical development.