Causes of Cellular Damage

1. Physical trauma

Impact forces

2. Temperature extremes

Enzymes denature, ice crystal formation puncturing cell membranes

3. Electrical injury

Disruption of neural and cardiac impulses

4. Chemical insult (Pb, Hg)


Damage cell membranes

block enzymatic

coagulate cellular proteins

disrupt osmotic and ionic cell balance


5. Radiation exposure

Above UV range – ionizing radiation (e- lost)

Below visible – nonionizing disrupt intracellular bonds.


6. Biological agent insult

Replicate and cause ongoing damage (infection)

7. Nutritional factors

Malnutrition, lack of amino acids, vitamins or minerals required for normal cellular function and processes

8. Free radicals

Reactive chemical species have unpaired e- that react with molecules in their vicinity.

eg. reactive oxygen species


9. Hypoxia: impaired oxygen delivery

Degree of damage depends on the:

  • severity of oxygen derivation

  • metabolic needs of the cell

10. Uncontrolled intracellular Ca2+ release

Secondary messenger

cytosolic signal for cell responses


Martin, Glenn and Porth, Carol, Mattson. 2009. Pathophysiology Concepts of Altered Health States. 8th ed. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. Philadelphia


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