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Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) are formed as a byproduct of lipid peroxidation (i.e. as degradation products of fats) which can be detected by the TBARS assay using thiobarbituric acid as a reagent. TBARS can be upregulated, for example, by heart attack[1] or by certain kinds of stroke.[2]

Because reactive oxygen species (ROS) have extremely short half-lives, they are difficult to measure directly. Instead, what can be measured are several products of the damage produced by oxidative stress, such as TBARS.[3]

Assay of TBARS measures malondialdehyde (MDA) present in the sample, as well as malondialdehyde generated from lipid hydroperoxides by the hydrolytic conditions of the reaction.[4] MDA is one of several low-molecular-weight end products formed via the decomposition of certain primary and secondary lipid peroxidation products. However, only certain lipid peroxidation products generate MDA, and MDA is neither the sole end product of fatty peroxide formation and decomposition, nor a substance generated exclusively through lipid peroxidation. These and other considerations from the extensive literature on MDA, TBA reactivity, and oxidative lipid degradation support the conclusion that MDA determination and the TBA test can offer, at best, a narrow and somewhat empirical window on the complex process of lipid peroxidation. Use of MDA analysis and/or the TBA test and interpretation of sample MDA content and TBA test response in studies of lipid peroxidation require caution, discretion, and (especially in biological systems) correlative data from other indices of fatty peroxide formation and decomposition.[5]

Malondialdehyde reacts with both barbiturate and thiobarbiturate,[6] and the end-product of the TBARS assay is almost identical to the end product of the pyridine-barbiturate cyanide assay. This suggests that some cyanide poisoning cases that relied on the pyridine-barbiturate diagnostic could be false positives with elevated blood malondialdehyde, and no cyanide present at all. The cases of Urooj Khan, lottery winner of Chicago, and Autumn Klein, doctor of Pittsburgh, both fit these characteristics, since neither patient exhibited cyanide poisoning symptoms, yet both appeared to have suffered heart attacks, with Urooj Khan's blocked arteries noted at autopsy[7] and Autumn Klein's evidence for heart abnormalities noted at trial and as a central part of her husband's conviction appeal.[8][citation needed]


  1. ^ Schimke, I.; Kahl, P. E.; Romaniuk, P.; Papies, B. (1986). "Concentration of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) in serum following myocardial infarct". Klinische Wochenschrift. 64 (23): 1237–9. doi:10.1007/bf01734466. PMID 3807270. S2CID 38817374.
  2. ^ Tsai, Nai-Wen; Chang, Ya-Ting; Huang, Chi-Ren; Lin, Yu-Jun; Lin, Wei-Che; Cheng, Ben-Chung; Su, Chih-Min; Chiang, Yi-Fang; Chen, Shu-Fang; Huang, Chih-Cheng; Chang, Wen-Neng; Lu, Cheng-Hsien (2014). "Association between Oxidative Stress and Outcome in Different Subtypes of Acute Ischemic Stroke". BioMed Research International. 2014: 1–7. doi:10.1155/2014/256879. PMC 4034452. PMID 24895559.
  3. ^ Pryor, W. A. (1991). "The antioxidant nutrients and disease prevention--what do we know and what do we need to find out?". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 53 (1 Suppl): 391S–393S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/53.1.391S. PMID 1985418.
  4. ^ Trevisan, M. (2001). "Correlates of Markers of Oxidative Status in the General Population". American Journal of Epidemiology. 154 (4): 348–356. doi:10.1093/aje/154.4.348. PMID 11495858.
  5. ^ Janero, David R. (1990). "Malondialdehyde and thiobarbituric acid-reactivity as diagnostic indices of lipid peroxidation and peroxidative tissue injury". Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 9 (6): 515–540. doi:10.1016/0891-5849(90)90131-2. PMID 2079232.
  6. ^ Jardine, Daniel; Antolovich, Michael; Prenzler, Paul D.; Robards, Kevin (2002). "Liquid Chromatography−Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) Investigation of the Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances (TBARS) Reaction". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 50 (6): 1720–1724. doi:10.1021/jf011336a. PMID 11879064.
  7. ^ https://www.pjstar.com/x1037518301/Autopsy-reveals-little-about-Chicago-lottery-winner-death
  8. ^ "Doctors Testify on 2nd Day of Cyanide Poisoning Trial". 24 October 2014.