The Paradigm Shift Continues.

Sohal and Orr have seen the light! Two more giants of the old free radical theory have moved on from the death of the old free radical theory of aging.  In an in press review in FRBM, these two leaders in free radical research argue that structural based oxidative stress and the idea of accumulated damage is not the primary cause of aging, and that the effect of redox balance on signalling is likely more important. They then stake a claim to a new version of a free radical model by labelling it “the Redox Stress Hypothesis”. This review is a much more sober conservative take preserving a central role for reactive oxygen species model compared to Blagosklonny’s call to revolution back in 2008. What is clear is that the old idea that free radicals cause aging by direct accumulation of damage is being over thrown and several reasonable contenders are arising from the ashes.
Genuine Kuhnian paradigm shifts in Science are rare. It is really fun to be able to watch this one as it has been slowly evolving for the past five or so years. It seems so intuitive to think that the damage correlated with aging is the cause rather than the effect of growing old, but the opposite is being proven true. There are still many diehards out there who have not got the message. The next interesting validation of Kuhn will be to see how many of those don’t change their minds. According to Kuhn, a significant number will never be able to let the old paradigm go. At least not until their own redox signalling pathways become hopelessly unbalanced. For the laypersons who made it this far, the take home message is to not waste your money on antioxidant supplements to prevent aging.


  1. Decades before Kuhn's classic was written, Max Planck wrote, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."


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