Since the late 1990s fullerenes have been shown to extend the lifespan of mice by anywhere from 5 to 14% even when the treatment was started halfway through their lives.
But it wasn’t until 2012 that the full impact of their potential struck home. Scientists from the University of Paris used them to almost double the lifespan of rats — a staggering and nearly unbelievable achievement.
The good news is that fullerenes can be purchased online. But what are they, and is it worthwhile taking them? Let’s find out. . .
In 1985, scientists at Rice University in Houston discovered previously unknown pure carbon molecules. They called them fullerenes. The scientists were later awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry.
The molecules arecomposed entirely of 60 carbon atoms in the form of a hollow sphere. Since the discovery, other variations in shape and size have been found.
The scientists named them after Buckminster Fuller, the architect, inventor and futurist famous for designing dome-shaped structures. The spherical fullerenes are often compared to a typical black and white soccer ball and are also known as buckyballs or C60.
One C60 molecule is inconceivably small at 0.7 nanometers (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter). Their size, stability and high tensile strength give them many potential applications in electronics, engineering, optics and medicine.
Already in Use to Improve Health
Interestingly, a source of fullerenes called shungite exists in nature. This ancient rock, found only in Russia, has long been used in folk medicine for its healing properties. Today, people throughout the world use the ‘stone of life’ to purify water and protect against harmful electromagnetic frequencies.
In Japan and Taiwan, fullerenes have been incorporated into skincare products to reduce wrinkles and pigmentation, increase collagen and hydration, and protect against the sun.
A Potent antioxidant
Their small size mean fullerenes, which are fat soluble, can cross the blood-brain barrier, pass through lipid (fatty) membranes, and protect cells from toxicity. Some researchers believe the protection benefits the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, which, when damaged, cause many chronic and degenerative diseases and accelerate aging.
Fullerenes are exceptionally powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. They have remarkable free radical scavenging properties and can reach parts of the cell other antioxidants cannot.
Lab research has shown they are neuroprotective, act as anti-bacterial and antiviral agents, prevent damage from ultraviolet radiation and cause cancer cells to self-destruct.
The 2012 rat study I mentioned at the start was designed to look only at the toxicity of fullerenes, so the anti-aging effects came as a surprise. Let’s take a closer look. . .
A Major Breakthrough?
A total of 18 rats divided into three groups were first poisoned, then given either water, olive oil or C60 dissolved in olive oil. The control rats lived on average 22 months, the olive oil group lived to 26 months, but those provided with C60 lived 42 months and were the only ones to have almost completely healthy livers.
One of the C60 rats lived to 66 months, which surely must be the longest ever recorded in any experiment, and is the equivalent of a human living to 165. The researchers wrote that “C60 should be the most efficient ever material for extending lifespan.”
Professor Fathi Moussa, who led the study, added in an interview that unlike the control rats, the C60 rodents didn’t develop tumors.
Geneticist and aging expert David Sinclair from Harvard opined, “If the result holds up, it could be a major breakthrough in lifespan extension.”
Still Waiting. . .
I wish I had better news, but seven years on, we don’t know if the result holds up.
Prof. Moussa was in discussion with scientists in the US concerning a much larger trial, but this appears to have fallen through.
He also said pure C60 (not synthesized with other compounds) is nontoxic even for long-term use, but in the absence of a large trial, we can’t know this for sure, nor can we confirm whether it’s truly effective in prolonging the lifespan of rodents, let alone humans.
While C60 has great potential to maintain health and extend lifespan, and is available as a supplement, taking it every day would be an act of faith at this time.