AbstractCertain polyunsaturated fatty acids can selectively kill tumor cell lines while causing little to no harm to normal cell lines. However, the mechanism of this cytotoxicity is only partially understood. Antioxidants such as vitamin E have been shown to be capable of completely blocking the cytotoxic response when administered concomitantly with the fatty acid. We report here that when vitamin E was added as late as 6 days following fatty acid treatment, at a time point when the process of cell death was well underway, any further development of cell death was blocked. This implies that the mechanism of fatty acid induced cytotoxicity does not involve a gradual compromising of the cell over the 5-7 day time course of cell death. Instead, the event triggering cell death is an oxidative phenomenon occurring over a short time span of minutes or hours, not days, and is completely blocked by vitamin E.
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