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Ever since its discovery in 1985, carbon 60, also known as buckminsterfullerene (commonly called “fullerene”), has been the subject of many scientific studies, perhaps most notably for its plausible effect on longevity.

Named “Molecule of the Year” in 1991, research since its discovery has shown that this carbon nano-molecule holds promise as a powerful antioxidant, antibiotic, and life-extender. While only two human clinical trials exist so far, the enormous potential of this nanostructure will no doubt be probed by more researchers.

C60: Super Antioxidants

Carbon 60 (C60) is an exceptional antioxidant. The fullerenes’ activities as “free radical scavengers” are what make them so powerful. Free radicals are by-products of metabolism which the body removes. However, unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking, and poor diet are factors. Age and stressors also play a role. When free radicals build up, causing oxidative stress, the body reacts through manifesting symptoms of disease.

Because free radicals are a by-product of oxygen metabolism, their primary enemies are called antioxidants.  

Dr. Puya Yazdi, Chief Medical Officer at SelfHacked notes that this particular antioxidant is effective in studies because “it removes superoxide, which is a toxic by-product of cellular metabolism that contributes to tissue injury in many human diseases.”  

C60: Free Radical Scavenger

A 2017 research review published in Materials Today by a team of investigators from the U.S., England, Italy, and Iran explains some possible impact of free radicals, which are:

produced by normal cellular metabolism as well as abnormal reactions, encouraged by some disorders. They can trigger tissue abnormalities along with toxicities and disease processes, damaging biological molecules like proteins, lipids, and DNA. This leads to cell damage and, in some cases, to diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis [citations omitted].

Fullerenes make exceptional scavengers because, the researchers explain, “the presence of several double bonds in the fullerene cage makes it able to react with free radicals.” One study showed that these elements also called “buckyballs” were more efficient scavengers than another antioxidant, vitamin E

Five Promising Areas These Little “Balls” Can Improve Human Health

1. Improve Longevity

Studies with rats have shown that C60 suspended in olive oil extended life spans by 90 percent. This occured without any toxic effects. Later studies have further shown that C60 helped lengthen the lifespan of mice between 5 and 14 percent. 

Derek Lowe, Ph.D., notes in a blog post at Science Translational Medicine that the “most likely mechanism for the life-extension effects is through oxidative stress and free radical scavenging.” 

Chromosome Protectors

Buckyballs might also help lengthen life spans because they help to lengthen telomeres. Telomeres are protective parts of our chromosomes. As they deteriorate so do our chromosomes.

Once your telomeres become too short, you can no longer reproduce your cells and continue to live,” explains Makia Freeman, senior researcher at Tools for Freedom. Carbon 60 helps prevent telomere shortening by reducing oxidative stress. 

2. Cancer Fighter

The Materials Today research review noted that fullerenes, perplexingly, can also act as oxidants: “In fact they are able to promote the production of ROS within cells and consequently can stimulate the development of oxidative stress in some circumstances,” the reviewers noted. 

ROS is an acronym for reactive oxygen species. High levels of these free radicals are associated with oxidative stress and damage to DNA, RNA, and proteins.  Yet it is this characteristic that might make them effective for attacking cancer cells. 

Fullerenes have been incorporated successfully into some light-based cancer therapies. Combined with carboxylic acid, C60 was shown in one study to break down human cervical carcinoma cells through phototoxicity. 

In addition, a 2009 study of irradiated mice reported that buckyballs suspended in water helped reduce damage from radiation: 

The most significant protective effect was demonstrated when 1 mg/kg dosage of C60HyFn [hydrated C60] was administered before irradiation. The outcome of the substance testing is 15 percent survival rate of irradiated animals at 30 days of observation, and prevention of noticeable weight loss characteristic for radiation impact, versus unprotected control animals. 

3. Anti-Inflammatory

Free radicals also contribute to inflammation. Some researchers have harnessed fullerenes to help fight inflammation caused by arthritis. One study showed that C60 was helpful in protecting bones against the effects of osteoarthritis. 

In another study, researchers injected water-soluble C60 into rats to observe its effects on reducing damage associated with rheumatoid arthritis due to pro-inflammatory cytokines production, with some promising effects. The researchers concluded that “C60 is a potential therapeutic agent for inhibition of arthritis.” 

4. The Brain Warrior

Antioxidants are believed to be helpful in reversing the effects of aging on the brain, including memory loss. Given the incredible antioxidant properties of C60, it is no surprise that researchers are looking at its effects on neurodegenerative disorders.

One early study found that C60 had a neuroprotective effect on brain trauma by introducing fullerenes to cortical cell cultures exposed to excitotoxic and apoptotic injuries. Excitotoxicity is caused by glutamate, and is described as “the basis of all acute neuronal injury in the adult brain.”  Apoptosis refers to a type of active cell death requiring energy production. 

In a later study, researchers at the Washington University of Medicine (St. Louis, Missouri) reported that C60 demonstrated potential in animal studies for protecting the brain against neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease and familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (FALS).

The research reviewers also cited a study that showed that “at low concentrations, [fullerenes] exhibit neuroprotective effect and increase hippocampal neuronal viability.” However, the same study showed that higher concentrations had adverse effects. 

5. Antibacterial And Antiviral Superagent

Studies have found positive results with the use of fullerenes in mice for the treatment of bacterial infections. This included Group A streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strep throat, skin infections, and toxic shock syndrome. C60 has also been used to help suppress other infections, including Bacilus subtilis (associated with meningitis, infections to the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract), Candida albicans (which causes most yeast infections), and E. coli (some types of which can cause gastrointestinal distress such as diarrhea and vomiting). 

Researchers have also been looking at the potential for fullerenes to combat the spread of the HIV virus. They’ve concluded that “fullerene derivatives can complex and inhibit  HIV protease based upon their structure, being able to bind in the cavity regions of HIV protease and inhibit virus replication significantly.” 

6. Skin Defender

Carbon 60 current recognition is for its potential to help reverse signs of skin aging and in the treatment of acne. Only two clinical trials exist on humans — both looking to assess its efficacy on the skin. A 2014 study showed that the use of carbon 60 to treat acne was effective for over 85 percent of the subjects. A different study showed improvements to the appearance of wrinkles when used in a skin cream.

C60 may prove to be a protector from sun damage, too. Another study of lab research on human skin samples showed that when combined with liposome, fullerenes helped protect skin from UV damage

Need For More Research

Unfortunately, there are still only a few large-scale trials that prove that C60 can help impact human health and longevity. Most of the research that exists is from labs with computer models, in test tubes, or on animals. Though many studies show positive effects, a few studies implicate fullerenes as damaging to DNA. One study found that carbon 60 is possibly toxic for zebrafish because of its ability to permeate cell membranes. 

There have been no reports of damage to people from taking carbon 60. There have also been no reported side effects from the two clinical trials. However, medical and scientific observers are calling for long-term clinical studies to prove its safety and efficacy in humans. 

If you decide to try out carbon 60 for yourself, be sure to keep to recommended dosages. Higher amounts have had adverse effects in studies. In addition, avoid taking C60 in a pure form — always dissolve in olive oil.  

There’s still work to do. However, the potential for carbon 60 to significantly impact health and longevity might be just the key we’re looking for. Especially when it comes to its antioxidant power.

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