Convincing evidence supports a role for oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases. The model includes the formation of radical oxygen species (ROS) and the misassembly and aggregation of proteins when three tiers of cellular defence are insufficient: (a) direct antioxidative systems, (b) molecular damage repairing systems, and (c) compensatory chaperone synthesis. The aim of the present overview is to introduce (a) the basics of free radical and antioxidant metabolism, (b) the role of the protein quality control system in protecting cells from free radical damage and its relation to chronic diseases, (c) the basics of the ultraweak luminescence as marker of the oxidant status of biological systems, and (d) the research in human photon emission as a non-invasive marker of oxidant status in relation to chronic diseases. In considering the role of free radicals in disease, both their generation and their control by the antioxidant system are part of the story. Excessive free radical production leads to the production of heat shock proteins and chaperone proteins as a second line of protection against damage. Chaperones at the molecular level facilitate stress regulation vis-à-vis protein quali y control mechanisms. The manifestation of misfolded proteins and aggregates is a hallmark of a range of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amylotrophic lateral sclerosis, polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases, diabetes and many others. Each of these disorders exhibits aging-dependent onset and a progressive, usually fatal clinical course. The second part reviews the current status of human photon emission techniques and protocols for recording the human oxidative status. Sensitive photomultiplier tubes may provide a tool for non-invasive and continuous monitoring of oxidative metabolism. In that respect, recording ultraweak luminescence has been favored compared to other indirect assays. Several biological models have been used to illustrate the technique in cell cultures and organs in vivo. This initiated practical applications addressing specific human pathological issues. Systematic studies on human emission have presented information on: (a) procedures for reliable measurements, and spectral analysis, (b) anatomic intensity of emission and left-right symmetries, (c) biological rhythms in emission, (d) physical and psychological influences on emission, (e) novel physical characteristics of emission, and (f) the identification of ultraweak photon emission with the staging of ROS-related damage and disease. It is concluded that both patterns and physical properties of ultraweak photon emission hold considerable promise as measure for the oxidative status.