Manganosalen complexes are coordination compounds that possess a chelating salen-type ligand, a class of bis-Schiff bases obtained by condensation of salicylaldehyde and a diamine. They may act as catalytic antioxidants mimicking both the structure and the reactivity of the native antioxidant enzymes active site. Thus, manganosalen complexes have been shown to exhibit superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase activities, and they could potentially facilitate the scavenging of excess reactive oxygen species (ROS), thereby restoring the redox balance in damaged cells and organs. Initial catalytic studies compared the potency of these compounds as antioxidants in terms of rate constants of the chemical reactivity against ROS, giving catalytic values approaching and even exceeding that of the native antioxidative enzymes. Although most of these catalytic studies lack of biological relevance, subsequent in vitro studies have confirmed the efficiency of many manganosalen complexes in oxidative stress models. These synthetic catalytic scavengers, cheaper than natural antioxidants, have accordingly attracted intensive attention for the therapy of ROS-mediated injuries. The aim of this review is to focus on in vivo studies performed on manganosalen complexes and their activity on the treatment of several pathological disorders associated with oxidative damage. These disorders, ranging from the prevention of fetal malformations to the extension of lifespan, include neurodegenerative, inflammatory, and cardiovascular diseases; tissue injury; and other damages related to the liver, kidney, or lungs.
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