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Ozone found in Human Body Created in Biological Systems

28th November 2006 by Arrow Durfee Posted in Uncategorized

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute Make Strides in
Addressing Mysteries of Ozone in the Human Body

La Jolla, CA. February 27, 2003 – In what is a first for biology, a
team of investigators at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is
reporting that the human body makes ozone.

Led by TSRI President Richard Lerner, M.D. and Associate Professor in
the Department of Chemistry Paul Wentworth, Jr, Ph.D., who made the
original discovery, the team has been slowly gathering evidence over
the last few years that the human body produces the reactive gas –
most famous as the ultraviolet ray-absorbing component of the ozone
layer – as part of a mechanism to protect it from bacteria and fungi.

“Ozone was a big surprise,” says TSRI Professor Bernard Babior, M.D.,
Ph.D. “But it seems that biological systems manufacture ozone, and
that ozone has an effect on those biological systems.”

Now, in an important development in this unfolding story, Babior,
Wentworth, and their TSRI colleagues report in an upcoming issue of
the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the
ozone appears to be produced in a process involving human immune
cells known as neutrophils and human immune proteins known as

“It is a tremendously efficient chemical and biological process,”
says Wentworth, who adds that the presence of ozone in the human body
may be linked to inflammation, and therefore this work may have
tremendous ramifications for treating inflammatory diseases.

The Ozone Hole in Each One of Us

Ozone is a reactive form of oxygen that exists naturally as a trace
gas in the atmosphere. It is perhaps best known for its crucial role
absorbing ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere, where it is
concentrated in a so-called ozone layer, protecting life on earth
from solar radiation. Ozone is also a familiar component of air in
industrial and urban settings where the gas is a hazardous component
of smog. However, ozone has never before been detected in biology.

Two years ago, Lerner and Wentworth demonstrated that antibodies are
able to produce ozone and other chemical oxidants when they are fed a
reactive form of oxygen called singlet oxygen. And late last year,
Lerner, Wentworth, and Babior demonstrated that the oxidants produced
by antibodies can destroy bacteria by poking holes in their cell

This was a completely unexpected development, since for the last 100
years, immunologists believed that antibodies – proteins secreted
into the blood by the immune system – acted only to recognize foreign
pathogens and attract lethal “effector” immune cells to the site of

Questions, Answers, and More Questions

The question still remained, however, as to how the antibodies were
making the ozone. The TSRI team knew that in order to make the ozone
and other highly reactive oxidants, the antibodies had to use a
starting material known as singlet oxygen, a rare, excited form of

Now Babior and Wentworth believe they have found where the singlet
oxygen comes from – one of the effector immune cells called
neutrophils which are little cellular factories that produce singlet
oxygen and other oxidants. During an immune response, the neutrophils
engulf and destroy bacteria and fungi by blasting them with these

The work of the TSRI scientists suggests that the antibacterial
effect of neutrophils is enhanced by antibodies. In addition to
killing the bacteria themselves, the neutrophils feed singlet oxygen
to the antibodies, which convert it into ozone, adding weapons to the

“This is really something new, and there are a million questions
[that follow],” says Babior. “What does the ozone do to the body’s
proteins and nucleic acids? Can neutrophils make ozone without the
antibodies? Is ozone made by other cells? How long does ozone last in
the body? And, most importantly, how will these discoveries help to
cure disease?”

The research team continues to investigate.

The article, “Investigating antibody-catalyzed ozone generation by
human neutrophils,” is authored by Bernard M. Babior, Cindy Takeuchi,
Julie Ruedi, Abel Gutierrez, and Paul Wentworth, Jr. The article will
be available online this week at:
0.1073/pnas.0530 251100, and it will be published in an upcoming
issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences .

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
through research grants and through a training grant; and by The
Skaggs Institute for Research.


For more information contact:
Jason Bardi
10550 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, California 92037

Tel: 858.784.9254
Fax: 858.784.8118

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