Vitamins VS Nanoparticles — An Introduction to Oxidative Stress Prevention

Eshan Rasul
Sep 9, 2019 · 7 min read

Every year over 1 million people around the world are diagnosed with cancers, Alzheimer’s, and lots of neurological disorders all because of one thing; Oxidative Stress. Oxidative stress is initiated by a process called Oxidation, a word that everyone has heard at one time or another sitting in science class, but what is it?

What is Oxidative Stress?

Oxidation is the process by which cells get altered via the production of free radicals. Free radicals are groups of molecules with an unpaired amount of electrons, once formed these highly reactive groups start to steal electrons from other molecules. Electrons provide balance for a cell, allowing it to function properly. Oxidation is a normal process in the body as it occurs when we breathe, however, the production of free radicals can be amplified by exposure to cigarette smoke, pesticides, and pollutants.

It can become difficult when these free radical molecules start to react with important cellular functions, and this is called oxidative stress since the number of free radicals cannot be combated by the cells. Cellular damage opens up a path for:

  1. A variety of cancers including CA-27–29 breast cancer.
  2. And neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and Multiple Sclerosis.

In a sense, Oxidative stress is kinda like homework, in reasonable amounts, it’s easily manageable, but one essay on top of another plus some more projects just brings you to that point of being completely overwhelmed.

Conventional Oxidative Stress Prevention

The common treatment for oxidative stress is antioxidant supplements, antioxidants are substances that can safely interact with free radicals and help to protect the cells.

The two most commonly used antioxidant supplements are Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a lipid-soluble antioxidant, meaning that it dissolves in contact with fat cells. It is important as the chain-breaking antioxidant within the cell membrane since it protects the membrane fatty acids from lipid peroxidation.

Vitamin C is the most important water-soluble antioxidant in fluids. It helps to neutralize free radicals in the water or aqueous phase before it can attack the lipids. Vitamin C, also, is capable of regenerating vitamin E.

How vitamin C and E interact with free radicals.

However, like all conventional medical treatments, there’s always an issue, and these vitamins are large compounds. This means that they are unable to pass through the phospholipid bilayer and protect the integral parts of the cell. This barrier has resulted in the emergence of nanoparticle antioxidants.

A New Wave of Treatment

The two most popular and accessible nanoparticles used for enhanced drug delivery are gold and silver nanoparticles. Gold nanoparticles have become very popular in the early detection and diagnosis of cancer and may help to deliver targeted treatment. Scientists have begun to study its anti-oxidational properties as well.

Silver nanoparticles are believed to have intense anti-microbial properties and can be used to treat infectious diseases. A group of nanoparticles can quickly neutralize thousands of damaging reactive oxygen species.

The applications of gold nanoparticles in therapeutics.

The Comparison

After being exposed to all this information, 14 year old me decided that I wanted to compare our existing and conventional antioxidant treatments of Vitamin C and E to this new wave of nanoparticle antioxidants.

After finally getting my self an opportunity to work on this in a lab at Credit Valley Hospital I found that the conventional antioxidant treatments were able to protect yeast cells from oxidative stress better than this supposedly “new better wave of nanoparticle treatment.”

This result really bugged me for a while, it pushed the question of “Why aren’t these nanoparticle substances performing to the standard that existing research says they should?”

The Future of Antioxidants and Treatment of Cellular Diseases

The issue wasn’t with the nanoparticles themselves it was with the way they were being used. Gold and silver nanoparticles don’t possess antioxidative properties; gold nanoparticles are used as biomarkers in cancer diagnosis and silver nanoparticles have antimicrobial properties. The appeal of these substances in oxidative stress treatment is about their size. Finally finding out the answer to my question was awesome, and it pushed me to further pursue it; gain as much knowledge as possible as fast as I can.

NanoparticlePenetrates the cell wall/membrane providing more targeted treatment (protecting the cell from the inside out).

Vitamin CompoundAfter passing through the phospholipid bilayer, the nanoparticle dissolves, allowing the vitamin to interact directly with the cells affected organelles.

Nanoparticles like these are so small that they can pass through the phospholipid bilayer. The phospholipid bilayer is a layer of fat molecules that surround outside of a cell. This means that we can functionalize these particles with a compound of vitamin C or E and have it delivered directly into a cell to interact will the important parts of it that are currently under oxidative stress.

Why Nanoparticles?

Nanoparticle antioxidants constitute a new wave of antioxidant therapies for the prevention and treatment of diseases involving oxidative stress. It is believed that nanoparticle antioxidants have strong and persistent interactions with biomolecules and would be more effective against free radical-induced damage.

Nanoparticle antioxidants include inorganic nanoparticles possessing antioxidant properties and nanoparticles functionalized with antioxidants or antioxidant enzymes to function as an antioxidant delivery system, to assist the body.

How a nanoparticle interacts with the phospholipid bilayer.

Worldwide Application

Nanoparticle drug delivery has taken the medical, pharmaceutical, and financial world by storm and has the potential to change and save the lives of millions of people around the world suffering from previously incurable diseases and disorders branching from cellular degradation and oxidative stress.

In the case of CA 27–29, a type of breast cancer influenced by oxidative stress, nanoparticles have been developed to carry Doxorubicin (DOX) the most effective anti-cancer drug, which could previously be brought nowhere near a breast tumor marked with CA 27–29, to attack tumor growths from the inside out.


One of the largest issues with DOX is that it can sometimes inhibit healthy cells too, as well as trigger reactions from antibodies in the immune system. However, using a lipid-based nanoparticle protein to deliver DOX only into cancer cells by using oncomarker signatures, allows for the inhibition of the tumor in a safe manner. The delivery of this drug begins by:

Once they reach the affected area the nanoparticles penetrate the growth and release the DOX inside, preventing further expansion of the tumor.

The process of a DOX nanoparticle

Currently we have esteemed researchers, startups and, pharmaceutical companies all working to alter the face of oxidative stress and cellular degradation through enhanced drug delivery, in order to change the lives of over 1 million people globally that suffer from Alzheimer’s, CA 27–29 Breast Cancer, multiple sclerosis and many more diseases that are influenced by oxidative stress.

But it isn’t enough, they’re not enough smart people in the world working on the globe’s most important problems. Nanoparticle drug delivery is the future of therapeutics, not only within oxidative stress but countless other fields as well, and if we can get these smart people to start working on the world’s most important issues than it can only be changed for the better.

Key Takeaways:

If you liked my article, then don’t forget to leave some claps :)

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out at my email ( or Linkedin (Eshan Rasul).

Eshan Rasul

Written by

What’s up! I’m a 15yr old who is passionate about nanotech and regenerative medicine and how I can impact the lives of a billion people with them!

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