Dr. Denham Harman was confused.
Harman had become interested in aging as a student, after reading a New York Times article about the progress being made in aging research by a Russian biogerontologist. He continued to puzzle away over riddle of aging while completing his medical education, and through fifteen years of laboratory work - much of it involving the chemistry of free radicals. Then, one morning in November of 1954, while working at the UC Berkeley's Donner Laboratory of Medical Physics, his three interests - medicine, aging, and free radical chemistry - suddenly became fused in his imagination.
Out of nowhere, it dawned on Dr. Harman that aging itself might be caused by the kind of uncontrolled, damaging chemical reactions that he had seen time and again in his laboratory work. Looking at animals which had been subjected to heavy X-ray treatment seemed to prove him right: bombarding these animals with radiation caused free radicals to rage through them, and their young bodies suddenly seemed old in every way that you could test.
And most importantly, Dr. Harman's insight, first published in 1956, 87 immediately suggested a way to escape the ravages of old age. If aging was a disease caused by free radicals, then antioxidants - substances that fight free radicals - should be the cure.
So why didn't it work?
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