FULLERENES & NEUROLOGY - ALZHEIMER'S HOPE
Fullerene C60 Last updated Apr 10, 2014 Buckminsterfullerene (C60) is a molecule with unusual properties that was discovered in the late 1980’s and is being investigated for cancer treatments, skin care carbon nanotubes, and other applications. Several laboratory studies suggest that the water-soluble form of C60 may have neuroprotective properties and the non-hydrated forms dissolved in olive oil might extend lifespan. However, these claims have never been tested in humans. Similarly, the safety of C60 and its derivatives have never been tested in humans
About Fullerene C60
Buckminsterfullerene, also known as fullerene C60, is a sphere-like molecule made entirely of carbon atoms. Fullerene C60 is composed of 60 carbon atoms arranged in hexagon formations that combine to form a hollow spherical structure, giving it the nickname “buckyball”. C60 molecules often aggregate into large particles. As a substance, it is highly stable but also insoluble in water, unless it is in its hydrated form . Hydrated buckyballs have a thick, stable shell that is composed of water molecules and there and a small amount of uncertain evidence suggests this shell reacts in biological reactions in place of C60 molecules.
C60 is frequently used in nanotechnological applications, due to its high heat resistance and electrical superconductivity. Carbon nanotubes are used to construct paper batteries, electric cables, speakers, electronics, adhesives and a growing list of other applications.
Did You Know? Fullerenes have been detected in outer space and some astronomers speculate that fullerene molecules may have seeded life on earth. C60 is one of the largest objects that exhibits wave-particle duality.
Sources of Fullerene C60
Buckminsterfullerene is naturally found in soot and ash. Many skin creams combine fullerene C60 with olive oil as part of their formula. Fullerene C60 is not available as a food supplement or drug. No formulations of C60 have been tested for use in humans other than topical (skin) application.
The safety and biological activity of C60 varies depending on the many ways through which it is prepared for use in studies. In some studies, scientists dissolve C60 in oil for over 2 weeks then filter out aggregates. Other studies replace oil with solvents that are soluble for lipids and fats. Some studies combine C60 with hydrogen ions in order to increase its solubility in water. C60 often acts as an antioxidant but it can also be toxic depending on how it is prepared for the laboratory experiment . C60 becomes particularly toxic after exposure to light.
How Fullerene C60 Might Benefit the Brain
It is unclear whether C60 benefits or protects the brain. A Russian laboratory has found that hydrated C60 can protect against the buildup of beta-amyloid proteins, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease . Another study reports C60 affects the brain’s neurotransmitter levels after it is injected into brain ventricles of mice . The second study concluded that C60 does not cross the blood-brain-barrier, suggesting that oral treatment would not affect the brain. However, there have also been several rodent studies that suggest that hydrated C60 derivatives are neuroprotective and may enter into the brain through the bloodstream . All of these studies were done in rodents so, even without these discrepancies, the effects of C60 in humans remain untested.
Can It Prevent Dementia?
Possibly, based on very limited animal and test tube experiments. Synthetic derivatives of C60, known as carboxyfullerenes, were found to protect brain cells in the cortex against damage in rodent and human cell-culture models of ALS and Parkinson’s disease . Another study found that the neuroprotective properties possessed by these water-soluble carboxyfullerenes depend on activity that mimics superoxide dismutase (SOD) . SOD mimetic activity is caused by the presence of an enzyme named superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is not present in unhydrated C60 molecules. In contrast to these synthetic derivatives of C60, unhydrated C60 dissolved in olive oil has no published scientific studies to suggest that it may protect against dementia or brain aging.
Can It Benefit Someone with Dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Unknown, given that there is no evidence. No human or animal studies have been conducted to determine whether C60 treatments may benefit patients with dementia or mild cognitive impairment.
Can It Slow Aging or Delay Death?
Possibly, based on very limited evidence. A few laboratory studies suggest that C60 or its derivatives could slow aging, but the evidence is limited to a handful of rodent and cell culture studies that use different formulations with varying safety, efficacy, and speculative mechanisms of action.
One study found that administering 1.7 mg doses of unhydrated C60 per 1 kilogram of body weight doubled lifespan for a small group of rats . While promising, the study needs to be replicated and some problems with the study were noted at retractionwatch.com. The fullerenes for this study were derived from a chemical company, diluted in olive oil for 2 weeks, then filtered and kept at room temperature in the dark prior to initiating research. The unhydrated C60 had been dissolved in olive oil and is quite distinct from the water-soluble carboxyfullerenes that have been investigated by Laura Dugan’ laboratory at the University of California, San Diego. A different type of C60 that had been hydrated was found to extend lifespan by 11% for both healthy and afflicted mice, who were all middle-aged or older . To our knowledge, no studies have tested C60 in either formulation in humans.
Is It Safe When Used As Directed?
Unknown, based on no available evidence. No scientific studies have examined the safety of C60 in olive oil in humans. For hydrated C60, we were able to find only one clinical study reporting on acute injection of C60, with no discussion of dose or side effects . It is not known whether C60 has direct toxic effects or whether it may interact with other medications to cause adverse side effects or worsen existing medical conditions. Therefore, the safety of C60 to humans is unknown.
In laboratory experiments on animals, the evidence is mixed. Some studies report risks of oxidative damage and toxicity, particularly when cells were exposed to the photoexcited form of fullerene [1,9,10]. The photoexcited form of fullerene, C60(OH)18, damaged cell membranes in rat cells by binding and changing the chemical structure of lipids and proteins within the membranes [10). These studies were examining the safety of accidental environmental exposure to C60 rather than possible effects from its use as a medical treatment. Other studies report antioxidant effects without any toxicity risks upon C60 ingestion [1,4,5,11]. In one experiment, rats were fed daily doses of C60 that ranged between 1 and 1000mg. The rats were found to have larger livers and spleens, but no damage from toxicity was observed . However, humans and rats often respond differently to drugs and these animal studies have yet to be translated into human research.
NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.
If You Are Considering Taking Fullerene C60
C60 has never been studied in humans. The safety is completely unknown and the evidence for potential benefits is restricted to a handful of unreplicated studies in rodents. C60 is not legally approved in the United States for human consumption.
What's the Future?
No current clinical trials are being conducted to examine fullerene C60’s capacity to increase lifespan or protect against neurodegenerative diseases. Fullerene C60 is instead being examined for applications in nanotechnology. One ongoing study compares carbon nanotube x-ray imaging against conventional mammography as a method for diagnosing breast cancer (NCT01773850). Carbon nanotubes are also currently being tested as a means to diagnose lung cancer through breath analysis (NCT01420588). More information about these and other trials can be found at clinicaltrials.gov and at clinicaltrialsregister.eu.
Resources For Additional Information
There are currently very few resources available online about using C60 fullerene as a health treatment. Retrowatch.com provides information about the potential issues present in the single study that suggests that buckyballs may extend animal lifespan. More resources will be provided as more health information about fullerene becomes known.
- Sources of Fullerene C60
- How Fullerene C60 Might Benefit the Brain
- Can It Prevent Dementia?
- Can It Benefit Someone with Dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment?
- Can It Slow Aging or Delay Death?
- Is It Safe When Used As Directed?
- If You Are Considering Taking Fullerene C60
- What's the Future?
- Resources For Additional Information