Oxidative Stress

While oxygen is essential to sustaining normal cell function, the breakdown of its products may generate free radicals that can act as beneficial cell-signaling molecules or induce irreversible cellular damage and death [11]. The chemically unstable ROS by-products from aerobic cellular metabolism react almost instantaneously with neighboring species within their vicinity. The interaction of these stability-seeking agents causes them to propagate a cascade of reactions, which may ultimately disrupt and damage living cells and tissues. A few ROS include superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and the hydroxyl radical, as well as the common ROS subclass—reactive nitrogen species (RNS)—such as nitric oxide (NO).

Generally, free radical production is counterbalanced by several mechanisms that include both enzymatic and nonenzymatic antioxidants. However, in a period of imbalance between ROS and the body's antioxidants OS ensues. OS may be a consequence of excess ROS production and/or reduced antioxidant capacity. The inability of the human biological system to detoxify/reduce oxidants or to repair detrimental damage disrupts physiological homeostasis. OS has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many other human diseases including cancer, diabetes, AIDS and Parkinson disease; however, only recently have ROS been considered toxic to human spermatozoa [12].

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