A research group is claiming that fullerenes (C60, ingested and injected) greatly extend life span in rats; this is meeting with some considerable skepticism, given the degree of life extension and the lack of a plausible mechanism. “In the current study researchers fed the molecule dissolved in olive oil to rats and compared outcomes to a control group of rats who got plain olive oil. The main question they wanted to answer was whether chronic C60 administration had any toxicity, what they discovered actually surprised them. … Here we show that oral administration of C60 dissolved in olive oil (0.8 mg/ml) at reiterated doses (1.7 mg/kg of body weight) to rats not only does not entail chronic toxicity, but it almost doubles their lifespan. … The estimated median lifespan (EML) for the C60-treated rats was 42 months while the EMLs for control rats and olive oil-treated rats were 22 and 26 months, respectively. Using a toxicity model the researchers demonstrated that the effect on lifespan seems to be mediated by ‘attenuation of age-associated increases in oxidative stress‘.” So what might be going on here? The average life span of the Wistar rats used is 2-3 years (24 – 36 months). This was a small study size, but that’s not so important in determining whether you have an actual means of life extension if you can show that any of your study group lived much longer than usual – but it is important when it comes to the degree of life extension. If the study group is small, as it is here, using only a handful of rats, then the size of the effect can be much more readily distorted by chance. This line in the paper jumped out at me: “Before C60 administration, the rats were fasted overnight but with access to water.” If they failed to fast the control group, then we’re looking at yet another study that failed to control for calorie restriction, and this is actually largely an intermittent fasting study – which has certainly been shown to extend life in rats.
With their strange 60-atom structures, buckyballs could have potential as drug carriers, medical tracers, cancer fighters and other interesting applications in the human body, but studies examining their impact on the body have had mixed results. A group of French researchers set out to study its toxicity and other effects, and came up with a surprising find — not only are buckyballs safe, a buckyball diet doubled the lifespan of lab rats.
It’s a limited study, and the longer-lasting rats could be the result of a calorie-restricted diet instead, as some skeptics have pointed out. But it raises some interesting questions about the potential health benefits of buckyballs.
Computer simulations and other studies have shown buckyballs — more specifically, the fullerene known as C60 — are soluble in fat and can cross cell membranes, which is one reason why they could be useful as drug carriers or molecular targets. But this ability could also make them toxic. Previous research has been mixed; in one study, small doses of fullerene were more toxic than large doses.
In this study, researchers at the University of Paris-Sud 11 put some buckyballs in olive oil and fed it to a group of rats. Control rat groups were given water and plain olive oil. The control rats’ median lifespan was 22 to 26 months, but the buckyball rats lived 42 months, the researchers say. The C60 was absorbed by the animals’ bloodstream and eliminated from their bodies within 10 hours, but it apparently worked as a potent antioxidant, the researchers found.
Plain olive oil extended the animals’ lifespans by 18 percent, which is itself notable, but not as much as the buckyball-doped oil, which the team claims increased their animals’ lifespan up to 90 percent.
“C60 should be the most efficient ever material for extending lifespan,” they write.
But one problem is the study’s limited size, and another is the potential impact of fasting, to which the rats were subjected before being fed olive oil. Intermittent fasting has already been shown to increase rodent lifespans, as Longecity points out. Still, it’s interesting to note that this little carbon shape, found in everything from soot to deep space, could perhaps be good for our health.
Researchers at the University of Paris and colleagues fed the molecule fullerene (C60 or “buckyballs”) dissolved in olive oil to rats and found it almost doubles their lifespan, with no chronic toxicity.
The results suggest that the effect of C60, an antioxidant, on lifespan is mainly due to the attenuation of age-associated increases in oxidative stress, according to the researchers.
Pharmacokinetic studies show that dissolved C60 is absorbed by the gastro-intestinal tract and eliminated in a few tens of hours.
“These results of importance in the fields of medicine and toxicology should open the way for the many possible biomedical applications of C60 including cancer therapy, neurodegenerative disorders, and aging,” the researcher suggest.
“C60 can be administered orally, and as it is now produced in tons, it is no longer necessary to resort to its water-soluble derivatives, which are difficult to purify and, in contrast to pristine C60, may be toxic.
Since 1993, countless studies showed that fullerene (C60) and derivatives exhibit paramount potentialities in several fields of biology and medicine, mainly including specific DNA cleavage, imaging, UV and radioprotection, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-amyloid activities, allergic response and angiogenesis inhibitions, immune stimulating and antitumor effects, enhancing effect on neurite outgrowth, gene delivery, and even hair-growing activity, a summary in the Biomaterialspaper stated.
Ref.: Baati T, et al., The prolongation of the lifespan of rats by repeated oral administration of fullerene, Biomaterials (2012), doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2012.03.036