C60 anti-aging antioxidant
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Table of contents
- Researchers score a goal
- A sponge for free radicals
- C60 extends the life expectancy of animals
- C60 to choke cancer
- The antimicrobial properties of C60
- C60 for bone and joint health
- C60 for skin ageing
- Can we enjoy the benefits of Carbon 60?
- References of scientific studies
C60 (60 carbon): the antioxidant that extends life.
Antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial: these properties are not those of a miracle drug out of the pharmaceutical laboratories, but those of a form of pure carbon - such as graphite or diamond - discovered relatively recently. Carbon 60 opens unprecedented perspectives in the medical field.
Harry Kroto, a specialist in organic chemistry at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, is staring at interstellar space. What is the object of his attention? A long molecule made up of carbon atoms that looks like a snake. He is convinced of it: a structure of this type could only be born in the carbon-rich atmosphere of the red giants, those stars that reached the end of their life.
But he struggles to share his enthusiasm to learn more about this strange compound: what is more banal than carbon, this common chemical element on Earth and in the universe? Some time after his observation, in 1984, the man makes a meeting which will prove decisive: during a scientific congress, he crosses the path of a fellow American, Robert Curl, with whom he befriends . The latter then introduces Richard Smalley, one of his colleagues at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he works. During a visit to the men's laboratory, Harry Kroto discovers a very sophisticated instrument developed by Richard Smalley, the AP2, which allows to study the matter in an extremely precise way. The chemist has only one desire: to use it to conduct experiments around carbon and to understand how the snake molecule could have been formed. However, he must be patient: his American colleagues, invested in their projects, are not able to directly access his request.
But the big moment finally arrived in September 1985. The three men are gathered around the AP2 and inject carbon in the form of graphite, which is soon vaporized by the powerful laser machine. For several days, scientists experiment and obtain two notable results. They first succeed in recreating the snake molecule that Harry had observed in space; but their attention is focused on another element: the abundant presence of a pure carbon molecule, composed of 60 atoms, which has never been described before.
SCIENTISTS MARK A GOAL
Scientists then tackle an arduous task: to try to determine the structure of this molecule. Using paper, a pair of scissors and tape, Smalley eventually developed a model that perfectly describes their discovery: a polygon with 60 vertices and 32 faces, 12 being pentagons and 20 hexagons, resembling perfectly to ... a football! The carbon 60 - or C60 for shorter - freshly discovered was soon to be nicknamed "footballene" ( buckyball in English) 1.
Thanks to this work, the three men have updated the first member of a large family of chemical compounds, fullerenes, consisting only of variable number carbon atoms, of spherical shape, such as the C60, ring, ellipsis or tube, which will earn them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996. These compounds, so special in structure and with conductive and lubricating properties, are interesting nanomaterials used for many applications in the field electronics, in particular. But not only: they also have considerable therapeutic potential that attracts the attention of researchers around the world.
A FREE RADICAL SPONGE
The health benefits of this molecule are particularly related to a characteristic of the C60: it is able to bind with electrons, neutralizing the dangerous free radicals produced continuously in our body, such as superoxide ion or hydroxyl radical. If they participate in the normal functioning of our cells when they are present in moderate amounts, their excess can be detrimental to our health. These chemical species are indeed very reactive - they have one or more free electrons that seek to bind to other electrons - and they damage the body's components such as proteins, lipids or DNA.
This oxidative stress contributes to the phenomenon of aging, but also to the development of various diseases, such as cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases or osteoarthritis. The antioxidant capacities of carbon 60 are extremely powerful, several hundred times higher than vitamins C and E or carotenoids 2.
However, footballene has a big flaw: it is not soluble in water. To make it more easily assimilated by the body, scientists have developed many derivatives, by joining one or more chemical groups to the basic molecule, such as fullerenols or carboxyfullerenes, which retain the antioxidant capacity of the original molecule.
C60 EXTENDS LIFE EXPECTANCY OF ANIMALS
The way in which an organism responds to oxidative stress plays an essential role in determining its lifespan. By partially neutralizing free radicals, could the C60 increase the longevity of organisms? Several teams have attempted to answer this question by studying the effects of its administration on different animal species. Researchers at the University of Florida have managed to increase the life of a small freshwater crustacean, Ceriodaphnia dubia, by 38 % 3.
A Chinese team has shown a slowing down of aging in worms Caenorhabditis elegans 4 and the ability of C60 to activate key genes involved in cellular stress management, allowing animals to better withstand extreme conditions (such as exposure to high temperature, for example). These results, certainly promising, were obtained in animals far removed from the human being; but some data suggest that the action of C60 on longevity also concerns mammals. A study conducted on mice 5 has shown that it can reduce oxidative stress levels associated with aging and extend animal life by 11%; and to top it off, to prevent the intellectual decline of aged guinea pigs.
But the most striking results were obtained by a team of researchers from the University of Paris Sud, led by Fathi Moussa, in 2012 6.
Rats were divided into three groups, one receiving a mixture of C60 and olive oil, the second only olive oil and the third only water. Great differences were observed in their life span: the animals lived respectively 42 months, 26 months and 22 months on average. In other words, the C60 has almost doubled the life expectancy of these lab rats! Very spectacular, these results were controversial in the scientific community, in particular because the number of animals included in the experimental protocol was low. In the same study, the researchers also showed the ability of C60 to protect animals against damage caused by the administration of carbon tetrachloride, a poison that generates free radicals. Rats in the control group were unsurprisingly exposed to severe liver damage, whereas rats given C60 displayed only small changes in liver tissue, demonstrating its formidable ability to neutralize free radicals.
THE C60 TO CHOKE CANCER
Carbon 60 is also of interest to researchers specializing in oncology. The involvement of free radicals in the development of cancer is well known: they cause instability in genes, block the proliferation of cancer cells and the formation of new blood vessels to feed tumors 7.
One of the therapeutic ways to control the disease is to use antioxidant compounds and, given its formidable capabilities, the C60 is an excellent candidate to achieve this. One of its derivatives, for example, has shown antitumor activity, not by destroying the cancer cells directly, but by modifying their microenvironment, making it unfavorable for their development 8. Others are able to exert a radioprotective effect, protecting healthy cells from damage caused by the high doses of radiation used to destroy cancer cells 9.
Carbon 60 may also be able to work around a problem that doctors face on a recurring basis: the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy, which compromises the chances of successful treatment. A team 10 has developed an anti-cancer drug based on the combination of C60 and cisplatin, a molecule commonly used in chemotherapy. Tested on leukemia cancer cells resistant to certain chemotherapies, the combination proved to be more effective at destroying diseased cells than cisplatin alone. The researchers then administered it to mice with lung cancer and found a slower growth of the tumor, more markedly than with any of the compounds used individually. The mechanism that explains this success has been highlighted: the C60 manages to inactivate certain proteins (P-glycoprotein 11, MRP1 et MRP2) which contribute to this phenomenon of resistance to chemotherapy. Finally, and last but not least, C60 reduces the toxicity of cisplatin, which can cause mutations in the gene pool, increasing the risk of developing secondary cancer a few years after treatment. The C60 could also improve diagnostics in the field of oncology; for example, an American team recently developed a contrast agent, used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which not only accurately detects breast tumors, but also details on its speed of growth 12.
The hollow structure of the C60 forms a cage that can accommodate gadolinium, a molecule commonly used to visualize tissue during MRI; on the surface is fixed a small compound that detects a specific protein associated with cancer. This assembly improves the sensitivity of the technique and ensures safety, especially because the doses used are lower than with traditional methods.
ANTIMICROBIAL PROPERTIES OF C60
Carbon 60 also has antibacterial properties, which operates in a different way depending on the type of bacteria13. These microorganisms consist of a single cell and a protective wall. The nature of the latter is variable and can distinguish two major groups: gram-positive bacteria (such as staphylococci, streptococci or enterococci) and gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, for example).
In the representatives of the first group, the C60 is able to intercalate directly between the compounds of the wall; thus unstructured, the microbe can not survive. If he is not able to directly destroy the bacteria of the second group, he is nonetheless able to control the infection they cause. E. coli is a bacterium naturally present in the gut and generally harmless. However, it can become pathogenic and cause different diseases: urinary tract infection, gastroenteritis, etc., and even formidable meningitis, especially in infants. Meningitis of bacterial origin is accompanied by an increase in the permeability of the protective barrier of the brain, which contributes to the development of cerebral edema, causing an increase in pressure inside the skull, which deprives certain regions of the brain of oxygen essential for cell survival. Taiwanese researchers have shown in a mouse study the potential of a C60 derivative to counter this phenomenon and maintain the integrity of this protective barrier14.
To these antibacterial properties is added its ability to fight against viruses. He has proven to be effective against the flu virus15 and hepatitis C 16. Since the 1990s, its antiviral potential is also studied on a formidable pathogen: the human immunodeficiency virus, responsible for AIDS. At that time, researchers discovered that compounds derived from 60 carbon had an antiviral action against HIV1, the most common form of the virus. But the mechanisms at work have not been elucidated, which has hampered the development of therapies.
Recently, in 2016, a team from the University of Texas, United States17, has lifted some of the mystery surrounding his mode of action. It was previously accepted that C60 blocked the action of proteases produced by the virus to cut precursor compounds and obtain the molecules necessary for its multiplication. But the scientists realized that he was actually acting in another way: he is opposed to the maturation of the virus. Thus, when the virus multiplies in an infected cell, it remains in an immature form that has no infectivity. A very interesting track to develop a new approach to fight against the virus.
THE C60 FOR BONE AND JOINT HEALTH
On the other hand, carbon 60 has a protective action on our skeleton. Since the 1990s, a group of researchers has shown that it is able to promote the production of chondrocytes 18, these cells that ensure the regeneration of cartilage, the tissue that covers the bony ends at the joints. Could he therefore fight against the degeneration of this protective coating, observed especially in case of osteoarthritis? To determine this, Japanese researchers19 have conducted a double experiment. They first studied the behavior of human chondrocytes subjected to oxidative stress, with or without C60. The cells subjected to this cellular stress produce enzymes, substances that attack the cartilaginous tissue, but this phenomenon is stopped by the addition of the treatment.
In addition, it increases the production of type II collagen and proteoglycans, the basic components of cartilage. In the second part of their study, scientists tested the effects of the compound in an animal model of pathology. They performed injections of C60 at the joints of rabbits and found a slowing of the wear of their cartilage.
Thanks to its antioxidant properties, C60 prevents the inflammatory state that contributes to the degradation of this tissue. But free radicals are not only harmful to cartilage, they also damage bone tissue by promoting the formation of osteoclasts20, cells responsible for bone degradation. And again, the C60 can prevent the damage: injected in the joints of rats suffering from osteoarthritis, it reduces the number of these cells and thus the destruction of the bone tissue21. Additional data obtained during laboratory tests suggest that it is also able to stimulate the formation of new bone tissue by activating certain genes involved in this phenomenon.22. He appears as an ideal candidate to fight against osteoporosis, which affects about 40% of 65 years old women. Especially since it makes it possible to better target the drugs conventionally used to fight against the disease, such as bisphosphonates, poorly assimilated in the intestine when they are administered orally. Researchers have been working on the development of chimeric compounds made from C60 and bisphosphonates, which have a strong affinity for hydroxyapatite, the main mineral component of bones. Thus, this treatment specifically targets bone tissue23.
The effects of C60 derivatives are also studied in another skeletal disorder, the wear of disks separating the vertebrae24. By reducing the production of inflammatory compounds, they reduce the pain associated with them.
C60 AGAINST SKIN AGING
Although the work mentioned above has given encouraging results, most of the research projects are only at the experimental stage on animals and few clinical trials have been conducted in humans. The only area that is an exception is that of cosmetics, the ability of the C60 to oppose the destruction of collagen fibers by free radicals25 by making an undeniable anti-aging asset. Thus, in a study of 23 people, the application of a C60 cream for two months has reduced the depth of wrinkles 26; another trial, lasting one month, highlighted the increase in the collagen content of the skin and an improvement in its level of hydration.27.
The researchers also noted the lack of toxicity of this treatment during tests on fibroblasts, the cells present in the skin. Anti-aging creams based on carbon 60 are already available on the market. In addition, the C60 may have other applications in dermatology: tested in a small trial against acne, the application of a gel twice a day for two months has reduced the lesions, without decrease the effectiveness of the skin barrier. Its action includes a reduction in the production of sebum28.
CAN YOU ENJOY THE BENEFITS OF CARBON 60 ?
Products containing carbon 60 are sold on different websites, but do not have the status of a drug or a food supplement. They come in the form of powder or solution where the product is mixed with olive oil, avocado or coconut. The 60 carbon has not been approved for use in humans, which does not prevent some users to resort to it without waiting for the official go-ahead, to fight against various chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis , inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, etc.) or allergies.
Some patients with multiple sclerosis use it to try to curb the evolution of this autoimmune disease: by reducing the inflammatory phenomena, the carbon 60 could slow down the destruction of the protective sheath that surrounds the extension of the neurons.
The carbon 60 itself does not present any risk of allergy29 and does not appear to have any toxic effect30, even in relatively high doses: in rats exposed to a dose of 2000 mg/kg for one day and 250 mg/kg for 30 days, no deaths were observed and the internal organ structure not affected by the treatment. The amounts of carbon 60 detected in the body were low, showing that it was properly removed. Data on the effects of long-term administration are, however, not available.
Article written by Céline Sivault
References and scientific studies used in the article:
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