Garry Buettner
Free Radical Radiation Biology, ESR Facility (EMRB 68) Med Labs B180K (Office) The University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 52242-1181, USA Tel: 319-335-8015 (Office) or 5-6749 (ESR) Fax:319-335-8039
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Google Scholar pages 

Research Interests

  • Dr. Buettner’s research focuses on the flow of electrons through chemical, biochemical, and biological systems and the consequences of changing the current in different biological circuits.  In mitochondria electrons flow through a high flux circuit efficiently producing ATP, and H2O (respiration); however, some do not flow to dioxygen, rather just to NAD+ (glycolysis).  Of special interest is the flow of electrons into the many low flux biochemical circuits that partially reduce dioxygen producing superoxide and hydrogen peroxide.  Understanding quantitatively the elements of these circuits (e.g. antioxidants, redox enzymes, and proteins) and how they dictate the fundamental biology of cells and tissues and overall health of organisms is the primary goal.  Using this information to improve human health is the ultimate reward. 

    Dr. Buettner’s goal is to understand the basic chemistry and biology of free radicals and related oxidants in human health and of course antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, glutathione, as well as the enzyme systems that work in concert with these molecules. His work has provided a new view of ascorbate as the terminal, small molecule, water-soluble antioxidant. See: The pecking order of free radicals and antioxidants: Lipid peroxidation, -tocopherol, and ascorbate (PMID: 8434935); The ascorbate free radical as a marker of oxidative stress: An EPR study (PMID: 8384150); The concentration of glutathione in human erythrocytes is a heritable trait (PMID: 23938402).          

    His basic research on vitamin C has lead to the hypothesis that ascorbate at pharmacological concentrations can be used as a pro-drug for the delivery of hydrogen peroxide to tumor cells and thereby serve as a component of the therapy of certain cancers. See: Ascorbic acid at pharmacologic concentrations selectively kills cancer cells: ascorbic acid as a pro-drug for hydrogen peroxide delivery to tissues (PMID: 16157892); Mechanisms of ascorbate-induced cytotoxicity in pancreatic cancer (PMID: 20068072).        

    Nitric oxide as a membrane antioxidant. He has contributed to the understanding of fundamental chemistry of this small molecule functioning as an antioxidant; only 10-50 nano molar are needed serve this function. See: Nitric oxide as a cellular antioxidant: A little goes a long way (PMID: 16443165).        

    He has initiated the new research field of Quantitative Redox Biology.  This represents a transition from understanding basic biology of cells and tissues at an observational level to a true mechanistic level. His work in this arena changed the working paradigm of redox biology. Examples are: The pecking order of free radicals and antioxidants: Lipid peroxidation, alpha-tocopherol, and ascorbate (PMID: 8434935); Redox state of the cell as viewed though the glutathione disulfide/glutathione couple (PMID: 11368918); and A new paradigm: Manganese superoxide dismutase influences the production of H2O2 in cells and thereby their biological state (PMID: 17015180).       

    The primary goal of our research program is: to do some good

Example Publications

Redox Biology Presentation:  In October, 2020, Dr Buettner presented the Sunrise Lecture at the annual meeting of the Radiation Research Society, Free radical biology: Its evolution and application.  This 32-minute video provides an overview of redox biology and how it is being applied to cancer therapy here at The University of Iowa.  

(Complete List of Publications via Google Scholar or via National Library of Medicine)

Cushing CM, Petronek MS, Bodeker KL, Vollstedt S, Brown HA, Opat E, Hollenbeck NJ, Shanks T, Berg DJ, Smith BJ, Smith MC, Monga V, Furqan M, Howard MA, Greenlee JD, Mapuskar KA, St-Aubin J, Flynn RT, Cullen JJ, Buettner GR, Spitz DR, Buatti JM, Allen BG, Magnotta VA. 
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of pharmacological ascorbate-induced iron redox state as a biomarker in subjects undergoing radio-chemotherapy.
Redox Biol. (2021) 38:101804. (Open Access) PMID: 33260088 

MRI image example pub

Stolwijk JM, Falls-Hubert KC, Searby CC, Wagner BA, Buettner GR
Simultaneous detection of the enzyme activities of GPx1 and GPx4 guide optimization of selenium in cell biological experiments.
Redox Biology. (2020) 32:10158. (Open Access) PMID: 32278283 



Buranasudja V, Doskey CM, Gibson AR, Wagner BA, Du J, Gordon DJ, Koppenhafer SL, Cullen JJ, Buettner GR.
Pharmacological ascorbate primes pancreatic cancer cells for death by rewiring cellular energetics and inducing DNA damage.
Molecular Cancer Research. (2019) 17(10):2102-2114. PMID: 31337671; 



Doskey CM, Buranasudja V, Wagner BA, Wilkes JG, Du J, Cullen JJ, Buettner GR.
Tumor cells have decreased ability to metabolize H2O2: Implications for pharmacological ascorbate in cancer therapy.
Redox Biology(2016) 10:274-284. (Open Access) PMID: 27833040 

Tumor cells


Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Human Toxicology: 

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center:   
Environmental Health Science Research Center: 
Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research:  

Honors, Awards and Organizations

  • Carver College of Medicine “Wall of Scholarship”, 2019.  Three papers honored for having over 1000 citations in at least 2 of the 3 high profile citation indices.  See writeup at: 
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine. This award is bestowed on a scientist whose aggregate body of work, over their lifetime has contributed to the field of free radical biology and medicine. 
  • Silver Medal Biology/Medicine, 2009, International EPR (ESR) Society (The award committee especially noted his fundamental contributions that have advanced the use of EPR spin trapping in biology and medicine.)
  • AAAS Fellow (American Association for the Advancement of Science), 2008, for distinguished contributions and leadership in the field of free radical biology, particularly the application of thermodynamics to elucidate the role of antioxidants in biology.
  • President, 2004-2006, Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the largest professional society devoted to the study of free radical and redox biology. 
  • Distinguished Service Award, 2006, Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine
  • Staples Distinguished Lecturer, 2000, The University of Maine,
  • Master Teacher Award, 1999, given by the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, formerly the Oxygen Society/Free Radical Research Society. 
  • Citation Classic selection by the Institute for Scientific Information, the publishers of Current Contents, for: Oberley LW and Buettner GR (1979) The role of superoxide dismutase in cancer: A review. Cancer Research 39: 1141-1149. [Citation Commentary] [Abstract] [PDF]
  • Citation Classic selection by the Institute for Scientific Information, the publishers of Current Contents, for: Buettner GR, Oberley LW, and Leuthauser SWHC. (1978) The effect of iron on the distribution of superoxide and hydroxyl radicals as seen by spin trapping and on the superoxide dismutase assay. Photochem Photobiol 28: 693-695. [Citation Commentary] [PDF]
  • Citation Classic selection by the Institute for Scientific Information, the publishers of Current Contents, for: Buettner GR and Oberley LW. (1978) Considerations in the spin trapping of superoxide and hydroxyl radicals in aqueous systems using 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-1-oxide. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 83: 64-74 [Citation Commentary] [PDF]
  • 1995-Present, Editorial Board Archives Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • 1995-Present, Editorial Board Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine
  • 1999-2004, Editorial Board Free Radical Research
  • 1985-1987, Fulbright Scholar GSF Research Institute, Munich, Germany


  • Ph.D. Chemistry, The University of Iowa, 1976.

  • M.S. Chemistry, The University of Iowa, 1969.

  • B.A. Chemistry, University of Northern Iowa, 1967.

Post-Graduate Education

  • Fulbright Scholar GSF Research Institute, Munich, Germany, 1985-1987.

  • NRSA Senior Fellow NIEHS, North Carolina, 1984-1985.

  • NRSA Post Doctoral Fellow Radiation Research Lab, The University of Iowa, 1976-1978