Oxidative DNA damage has been implicated to be important in the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease. The assessment of damage in various biological matrices, such as DNA, serum, and urine, is vital to understanding this role and subsequently devising intervention strategies. Despite the numerous techniques to measure oxidative DNA damage products in urine, it remains unclear what these measurements truly represent. Sources of urinary lesions may include the diet, cell death, and, of most interest, DNA repair. Were it possible to exclude the two former contributions, a noninvasive assay for DNA repair would be invaluable in the study of DNA damage and disease. This review highlights that, although progress has been made, significant work remains. Diet, cell death, and repair need continued examination to further elucidate the kinetics of lesion formation and clearance in vivo. Studies from our laboratory and others are making appreciable progress towards the interpretation of urinary lesion measurements along with the development of urinary assays to evaluate DNA repair. Upon establishment of these details, urinary oxidative DNA damage measurements may become more than a reflection of generalized oxidative stress.
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