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Bilirubin and the brain

David A. Greenberg
From: Science & Medicine: Volume 9 Number 2: Page 96 (April 2003)

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Abstract: Bilirubin, the byproduct of heme catabolism, has long lacked a clear physiologic role and has been regarded as a cytotoxic waste product. In the last decade, however, in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated that bilirubin, at nanomolar concentrations, exhibits potent antioxidant properties. In the liver and most other tissues, bilirubin scavenges peroxyl radicals to protect against injury in a variety of disease processes, including myocardial ischemia and pulmonary fibrosis. In the brain, bilirubin appears to exert neuroprotective effects via redox cycling, as demonstrated in cerebral ischemia and other diseases. A role in promoting neurogenesis in adult brains is also being investigated.

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