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Botany science fair project:
The Effects of Antioxidants and Free Radicals on Seed Germination




Science Fair Project Information
Title: The Effects of Antioxidants and Free Radicals on Seed Germination
Subject: Botany
Grade level: Middle School - Grades 7-9
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Medium
Awards: 1st place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (2006)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Description: This science fair experiment involved placing germinating bean and radish seeds in a hostile, artificial environment, which contained hydrogen peroxide as a source of free radicals. Vitamin A, C and E were added to these groups of seeds to study their protective effects as antioxidants. The purpose of this project was to determine which type of Vitamin is most effective for protecting plant cells against free radicals. This experiment is very relevant to our daily lives as the relationship between free radicals and antioxidants has a possible application towards a healthy lifestyle.
Link: http://www.virtualsciencefair.org/2006/haki6a2
Short Background

An antioxidant is a molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. As a result, antioxidants are often reducing agents such as thiols or polyphenols.

Although oxidation reactions are crucial for life, they can also be damaging; hence, plants and animals maintain complex systems of multiple types of antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin C, and vitamin E as well as enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and various peroxidases. Low levels of antioxidants, or inhibition of the antioxidant enzymes, causes oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells.

Ascorbic acid or "vitamin C" is a monosaccharide antioxidant found in both animals and plants. As it cannot be synthesised in humans and must be obtained from the diet, it is a vitamin. Most other animals are able to produce this compound in their bodies and do not require it in their diets. In cells, it is maintained in its reduced form by reaction with glutathione, which can be catalysed by protein disulfide isomerase and glutaredoxins. Ascorbic acid is a reducing agent and can reduce and thereby neutralize reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide. In addition to its direct antioxidant effects, ascorbic acid is also a substrate for the antioxidant enzyme ascorbate peroxidase, a function that is particularly important in stress resistance in plants.

In chemistry, radicals (often referred to as free radicals) are atoms, molecules or ions with unpaired electrons on an otherwise open shell configuration. These unpaired electrons are usually highly reactive, so radicals are likely to take part in chemical reactions. Radicals play an important role in combustion, atmospheric chemistry, polymerization, plasma chemistry, biochemistry, and many other chemical processes, including human physiology. For example, superoxide and nitric oxide regulate many biological processes, such as controlling vascular tone. "Radical" and "free radical" are frequently used interchangeably, although a radical may be trapped within a solvent cage or be otherwise bound. The first organic free radical identified was triphenylmethyl radical, by Moses Gomberg in 1900 at the University of Michigan.

For More Information: Seeds & Germination: K-12 Experiments & Background Information

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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