Students Staff

14 May 2008

Celebrating pioneering work on free radicals

Colchester Campus

Professor Chris Cooper

Pioneers of work on free radicals will be gathering at the University of Essex this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a crucial paper which confirmed their role in and importance to biological pathways.

Professor Peter Nicholls, who has been a Visiting Professor at Essex for the past 10 years, was one of the authors of the paper, published in the journal Nature, describing the production of a free radical. At the time, before the University of Essex was founded, Professor Nicholls was a PhD student at Cambridge.

Essex has since become a leading university in free radical research, with work led by Professors Chris Cooper (pictured) and Mike Wilson. They are currently working on a project looking at how enzymes control free radical movement, and have just secured funding for further work on blood substitutes which hinges on modifying haemoglobin's capacity to produce free radicals.

Free radicals contain unpaired electrons, making them highly reactive. Hence, while they play an important part in a number of biological processes, they can also participate in unwanted reactions causing cell damage which contributes to a number of diseases.

Professor Cooper said: 'In the 50 years since this landmark paper was published, the study of free radicals has enhanced our knowledge of many biological processes and will be crucial in understanding many diseases.'

The conference celebrating the publication of the paper 'Free radical produced in the reaction of metmyoglobin with hydrogen peroxide' will bring lead author Dr John Gibson, then of the University of Southampton, to Essex. Speakers from a number of leading universities will discuss current findings and topics in free radical research.

The event takes place on Friday 16 May from 1.45pm to 5.30pm. Journalists are invited to attend and a media opportunity has been arranged at 12 noon in the EPR (electron paramagnetic resonance) laboratory, to see some of the equipment used in this type of research. Dr Gibson and Professor Nicholls will be presented with plaques at 2.30pm.

For further information please contact Jenny Grinter in the University of Essex communications office on 01206 872400 or e-mail

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