College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Cell-based therapy success could be boosted by new antioxidant

Could a newly-developed chemical compound help to treat Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis?

Dr Tilo Kunath

Cell therapies being developed to treat a range of conditions could be improved by a chemical compound that aids their survival, research suggests.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh exposed cells to a toxic substance, mimicking the shock that cells experience when transplanted. They then tested whether treating cells with antioxidants could protect them from damage.

They found the new synthetic compound – called Proxison – rescued as many as 90 per cent of cells from death. Studies with zebrafish also found the man-made super-antioxidant can protect cells from death in a living animal.

The newly tested compound is 10 times more effective at protecting cells from damage than the most powerful antioxidant found in nature, the study found. 



Such procedures are already used to treat people with blood disorders as well as to grow skin grafts for patients with severe burns. Researchers are seeking to develop similar approaches to treat conditions including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Lead researcher Dr Tilo Kunath (pictured), of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We found Proxison to be a potent antioxidant that is very effective at protecting cells from oxidative stress and free radical damage.”   

Proxison was developed by the Aberdeen-based biotechnology company Antoxis, which provided funding for the study.

The antioxidant was designed based on a natural compound found in fruit and vegetables. The team made small modifications to the chemical structure to generate a super-antioxidant that they hope to develop into a potential new drug.

The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.