– Sir Martyn Poliakoff, University of Nottingham
Yes, C60 fullerenes look exactly like soccer balls — 60 carbon atoms connected by 90 covalent lines forming 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons.
Like a soccer ball — kicked around for hours on end, yet maintaining its integrity and shape — C60 fullerenes exhibit extraordinary stability. They remain fully intact despite being squeezed, spun, crushed, pounded with radioactivity and chemicals, heated to very high temperature… Recall that vast swaths of deep space, the most unforgiving environment imaginable, consist of buckyballs.
That stability makes them nontoxic. They pass through an organism unchanged, but for one feature: their ionic balance. Having one free negatively charged electron for each of the 60 carbon atoms makes them attractive to reactive oxygen species (ROS), the byproduct of metabolized oxygen in our system that results in cell oxidation and deterioration.
Though many types of molecular structures attract positive ionic particles, the brilliance of the C60 fullerene lies in its gorgeous symmetry. In certain cases that hollow “cage” is capable of trapping and enclosing other atoms and molecules to transport them. In the case of free radical species such as ROS, the fullerene exerts powerful attraction from its core, which draws in their free electrons like a sponge, dispersing them across its surface, creating a covalent bond.
Fullerenes may soon impact everything around us. Science hasn’t come close to tapping their potential in computing, communications, even the manufacture of everyday goods that are better, stronger, more efficient. If we stick to healthcare alone, fullerenes used as theranostics agents for tumor imaging and precise radiopharmaceutical targeting may open a path toward the eradication of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, two great plagues of modern existence.
Their superior efficiency in deactivating free radicals, combined with the resiliency of their structure, ensures that when applied to the surface of the skin or scalp they can descend, intact, to the lowest part of the corneal layer to do the essential work of trapping and removing contaminating and oxidating elements that otherwise have no path out of the system, and simply accumulate.
Until recently, fullerenes were hard to come by. First extracted for study in minuscule quantities from soot, and then in 1992 from a rare mineral found in Russia, shungite, they were exceptionally rare and costly. Their study was confined to the laboratory, and there was no thought of mass-producing them for medical use, much less consumer application.
The method of synthesis used by Kroto, Smalley, and Curl produced precious little of the substance. That method was optimized to the point that manufacturing fullerenes became a conceivable option, but the environmental hazards and inefficiencies tended to outweigh the benefits.
Decades of research and development have led to VC60 BioResearch Corporation‘s 2020 launch of the first and only plant-based fullerenes available today, based on the company’s proprietary process; one that is sustainable, cost-effective, and prolific, making fullerenes in everyday use a practical option, as their full potential continues to unfold.
Intracellular ROS level detection was performed at 1 hour after irradiation with UVA (60 J/cm2). Fluorescence intensity is proportional to intracellular ROS amounts, pseudo-colors are expressed from blue via yellow to red. Scale bar indicates 15 µM.
Cells pretreated with Radical Sponge® at 25, 50, and 75 µM, exhibited markedly reduced ROS levels, as well as visibly reduced blebs and other morphological abnormalities that indicate cell degeneration.
Among other things, UV exposure activates MMP9, the enzyme responsible for breaking down the skin’s lowest layer of collagen. Fullerenes interfere with that activation, as well as disrupting the destructive effect on the stratum corneum that results in shape abnormalities surrounding pores. As evidenced by clinical trial, C60 reduces wrinkle depth, tightens pores.
UV exposure increases accumulation of ROS. Keratinocytes, in turn, act on melanocytes to induce hyperpigmentation — irregular darkening. Melanin shown at right was visualized by Fontana-Masson staining.
H.F. application suppresses hair dye fading, protects the cuticle, and diminishes damage due to UV exposure; lessening loss and discoloration, and protecting hair shafts.
Free radicals are predominant in local occurrences of inflammation. Fullerenes effectively reduce these without interfering with the skin’s healing ability.