Spin-trap technologies sound like something out of the Sci-Fi world; and in many ways, this is true. Spin traps are next-gen antioxidants. They make a proactive strike against free radicals by disarming and stabilizing them before they can cause damage. Antioxidants, on the other hand, while effective, are more reactive in nature, responding after the attack.
What are spin traps, and how do they work? A brief origin story and (simplified) chemistry lesson provide insight.
Spin Trap Background
In 1969, Janzen and Blackburn published on the use of a technique known as electron spin resonance trapping, or spin trapping, to detect free radicals. Simply put, free radicals are short-lived, neutral molecules that contain atoms having unpaired electrons. Being single, these electrons are essentially free to move about and interact with other molecules, which is what makes them unstable, highly reactive and potentially damaging.
Within atoms, these electrons spin and vibrate. They move based on how they absorb or emit photons, whose spectrums can be detected and used to identify the parent molecule. In the case of an unknown free radical—which, recall, is very fleeting—the researchers found that spin and motion of its electrons can be quickly "trapped" by adding a material to it with known electron behavior; typically, phenyl-N-tert butyl nitrone. With both behaviors trapped together, the known behavior of the former can be subtracted to reveal the latter.
Previously, these researchers knew certain compounds could be added to free radicals to stabilize them and prevent them from causing damage; namely, quinones and trinitro aromatic compounds. However, of relevance to the current discussion is the fact that phenyl-N-tert butyl nitrone can be added to products to not only stabilize but trap these fleeting free radicals before they reacted and caused damage. Spin traps are selective, only trapping reactive free radicals and not other entities, such as desired oxygen molecules.
Considering that phenyl-N-tert butyl nitrone could trap free radicals to make their detection possible, it was a natural progression to consider this trapping capability for health and medical benefits. It also inspired a search for materials with similar effects.
Hopefully, this overview of spin trap technologies has left you enlightened, inspired and non-oxidized; and not made your head spin.
Our Team at Private Label Skincare Florida are always on the look-out for new technology and more effective ingredients in our formulations, to find out the latest and greatest and head-turning products - especially using phenyl-N-tert butyl nitrone in anti-aging products.