Life depends on oxygen. We use it to “burn” food and extract the energy required to keep our body functioning. Most of the oxygen is reduced to water, but by-products of this process are harmful free radicals. The only reason we survive in oxygen is that the body has antioxidant defences that protect against radical damage. These antioxidants are in part derived from diet, but most important are cellular enzymes that promote the breakdown of free radicals or repair the damage that they cause.
Professor Christine Winterbourn’s work on free radicals began when it was just becoming apparent that they are produced as part of normal metabolism, when her team showed that radicals are generated from oxygen in red blood cells as it is transported around the body.
In her lecture, she will discuss the development of knowledge since that time on the sources and consequences of free radical production and on health problems that can arise when antioxidant defence is inadequate.
Professor Christine Winterbourn is a leading world authority on free radicals and antioxidants. She was one of the first scientists to demonstrate that our cells produce free radicals as part of their normal function.
She went on to characterise some of the chemical reactions of free radicals that we now know occur in diseases such as cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and arthritis. Her current work encompasses mechanisms of antioxidant defence, understanding how white blood cells kill bacteria, and free radical involvement in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Professor Winterbourn’s passion and dedication over the past 40 years into research on free radicals and antioxidants has led to her making several seminal discoveries which have important implications for medical research.
Professor Christine Winterbourn is the Director of the Free Radical Research Group in the Pathology Department at the University of Otago, Christchurch.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
She has received numerous awards including the NZ Association of Scientists’ Marsden Medal, the Massey University 75th Anniversary Medal, the Society for Free Radical Research (Australasia) Distinguished Service Award, the University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal, and the Society for Free Radical Research (International) Trevor Slater Award for lifetime achievement.