The key building block of life—at least life as we know it—is carbon. Up until 1985, it was thought to be present on the planet in only two pure forms, graphite and diamond. Then, in a joint research project, Sir Harry Kroto of the University of Sussex and Richard Smalley and Bob Curl of Rice University made a discovery that led to a Nobel Prize in 1996: a third pure form of carbon which they named buckminsterfullerene.
Occasionally found in chimney soot, meteorites and interstellar nebulae, buckminsterfullerene has the molecular formula C60, with 60 carbon atoms linked together to form a hollow, cage-like structure that resembles the geodesic dome created by American architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller. Also known as 'buckyballs' for their soccer ball shape (the 60 carbon atoms are arranged in a pattern of alternating hexagons and pentagons, just like a soccer ball), these and other molecules of the 'fullerene' family (such as carbon nanotubes) have proven to have enormous potential in a wide variety of applications from superconductors to lubricants to photovoltaics.
But it is their potential uses in the medical arena that have people sitting up and taking notice. Since their discovery, hundreds of clinical studies have shown the remarkable antioxidant characteristics of C60 fullerenes (all variants of buckminsterfullerene, most commonly referred to as C60) as well as their usefulness as a drug delivery system for a wide variety of pharmaceuticals and cancer therapies.
A radical approach to free radicals
Our bodies constantly produce free radicals—unstable atoms missing an electron—as by-products of normal cellular function. For example, our livers create free radicals as a means to help detoxify the body, and our white blood cells use free radicals to get rid of bacteria, viruses and damaged cells.
For the body to function properly, there needs to be a balance between free radical production and elimination. Unfortunately, because of the internal and external stressors of modern life—emotional, physical and mental stress, environmental pollutants such as smoke and air particulates, heavy metals, industrial solvents, pesticides, radiation and certain drugs, alcohol consumption, processed foods, tobacco and fried foods (especially cooked in a variety of trans fats or trans-unsaturated fatty acids), food additives and GMOs—free radical creation far outstrips the human body's capacity to get rid of them.
The result is a condition known as oxidative stress, where molecules that contain a reactive oxygen atom (known as 'reactive oxygen species'), reactive nitrogen atom, or other type of free radical overwhelm the body's ability to neutralize them, damaging cell membranes, enzymes and DNA.
Oxidative stress has been implicated in conditions as diverse as asthma, bowel issues, diabetes, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, neurological and degenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.1
"It's a side-effect of life," says Joe Nieusma, PhD, a toxicologist and pharmaceutical assessment consultant in Denver, Colorado. "Everybody makes oxygen radicals every day—and a lot of them. Your body spends a tremendous amount of resources fighting oxidative stress. Over time, your body gets a lot less efficient at fighting oxidative stress, and that's where you see the signs of aging, the gray hair, wrinkles, baggy skin, and loss of muscle mass."
The answer to this kind of damage is, of course, antioxidants—molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules, preventing the formation of free radicals as well as scavenging for them after they've been created and helping to break them down. Vitamin C has long been known as a highly effective antioxidant, as are foods high in vitamin C such as goji berries, blueberries and other brightly colored fruit. And yet, at least according to one manufacturer, C60 fullerenes have many times more antioxidant power than vitamin C.2
C60 has such a high potential as a biological antioxidant that one study referred to it as "the world's most efficient radical scavenger."3
C60 is so effective because of its large, stable structure and high number of so-called 'double bonds' between carbon atoms, which allows it to easily form bonds with reactive oxygen species and other free radical atoms to stabilize them, like a damp cloth picking up dust. For example, up to 34 methyl radicals (organic compounds with oxidizing characteristics) can attach to a single C60 molecule.
Another important feature of C60 fullerenes is that they don't appear to break down over time—they can be reused without ever being consumed. C60 molecules also have the ability to localize within the cell's mitochondria (see page 28) and other places in the cells where the production of free radicals is highest.3
Best of all, it appears that C60 fullerenes are non-toxic to the human body. Experiments on rats dosed with the toxic compound carbon tetrachloride, for example, have shown that not only is C60 not harmful, but C60 molecules actually worked to protect the rats' livers against free-radical damage from the poison.4
"C60 is essentially a sponge that just goes around squelching these reactive oxygen species in the body," says Nieusma. "It gives your body more resources to do what it's designed to do, and that's DNA repair and healing. The less firefighting the body has to do, the more maintenance it can do."
Positive health effects
Because of its unique molecular architecture and antioxidant capacity, C60 has many health benefits. It has been shown to have anti-viral effects; for example, C60 derivatives are strong inhibitors of HIV-1 replication in test tube experiments.3 Additionally, the antioxidant activity of fullerene derivatives helps heal lungs injured by reoxygenation, where oxygen is suddenly reintroduced to oxygen-starved tissues.5 It has shown promise as a treatment for orthopedic injuries including cartilage degeneration, bone damage, radiculopathy (compressed nerves in the spine), intervertebral disc degeneration and vertebral bone marrow disorder.6
C60 fullerenes prevented the degeneration of joint cartilage and inhibited cartilage degeneration in one study of osteoarthritis,7 and reduced inflammation in the membranes of the joints—called synovitis—as well as the breakdown of bone tissue in another,8 but these animal studies still need to be confirmed by research on patients. C60 is also being investigated as a promising agent for both preventing and correcting skeletal
C60 has also shown promise as a possible cancer treatment. It was found to effectively inhibit the growth of malignant tumors that had been transplanted into mice by blocking certain cell receptors and acting as an antioxidant.10 In a similar series of experiments, it inhibited the metastasis of malignant tumors by as much as 48 percent, increasing the life span of the host animals by 22 percent.11
C60 also has tremendous potential as a drug delivery system. The cage-like shape of the molecules provides a scaffold upon which a variety of different types of drugs can be combined for single-dose therapy. In separate studies, C60 fullerenes that were chemically linked to the chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and doxorubicin were shown to release the drugs more slowly, which measurably increased their bioavailability and effectiveness against lung cancer cells and melanoma tumors in test-tube experiments.12 Doxorubicin, like many other cancer drugs, is highly toxic to the body in large part because it triggers the creation of free radicals. However, when doxorubicin was given along with C60 to mice with lung cancer, the toxicity effects of the drug were dramatically reduced, tumor growth and metastasis were inhibited and the animals lived longer.13
One of the most interesting potential medical applications of C60 is life extension. A test conducted on rats demonstrated that ingesting C60 in an olive oil carrier extended the rats' lifespan by 90 percent, with no harmful side effects.14
The ultimate anti-ager
Dr Phil Myers, a functional medicine specialist and founder of the Phi Wholeness Center in St. Louis, Missouri, specializes in regenerative medicine and reverse aging. Before C60 came into his life, he says, he was looking for something that would help neutralize free radicals and regenerate telomeres—the "caps" at the end of each strand of DNA protecting our chromosomes, which gradually wear down with age and oxidative stress, resulting in an ever-shorter DNA strand that no longer replicates as efficiently.
"I hadn't found anything that would do anything for cells specifically at the genetic level to repair the telomeres," he says.
"Then I was over at a friend's house one evening, and he was going on and on about something called C60."
After doing some research, he bought some products and did some testing. He also started taking C60 himself. "I know my body very well," Myers says. "The first thing I noticed was that muscle recovery was faster after a workout, and my vascular supply seemed to be faster and more effective. My strength and range of motion started improving at a slightly faster rate than they had before. As I wasn't taking anything else as far as my workout was concerned, I was really impressed with this."
When people started commenting on how young he was looking, he says he started wondering what the possible mechanism could be.
Over the years, he'd noticed reports of the increased development of patterns of gene mutations in humans, such as mutations of the GcMAF gene (Gc protein-derived macrophage activating factor), a vitamin D-binding protein gene. "When that gene is expressed, your body binds to vitamin D to activate your immune system so you can deal with whatever is going on in your life with zero symptoms," says Myers. "No conditions like autoimmune diseases, Crohn's disease, Lyme disease, etc."
The light bulb switched on regarding C60's possible link to longevity when he discovered C60's effectiveness against viruses. "If C60 helps with viruses, then it's turning back on the GcMAF gene," he says. "And if it's turning on that gene, you are rebuilding telomeres."
For the last several years, Myers says he's been using C60 in all his longevity and regeneration programs.
Despite the fact that C60 has been the object of hundreds of clinical studies, despite its remarkable potential health applications, and despite the fact that it is only lightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (in the US, C60 is regarded as a food supplement and not a health supplement), C60 has seen surprisingly little commercial development.
Currently there are fewer than 10 manufacturers of C60 in the world. There are several reasons for this. First, it is not a particularly easy product to manufacture in large quantities. Second, there isn't a great deal of technical understanding of how, precisely, C60 does what it does to relieve inflammation and general pain and stiffness in the body.
Bob Gresca, founder of the company Carbon-60, uses an analogy to explain C60's effects, comparing the surface of our bodies' tissues to the surface of a paper business card. To the naked eye, both appear smooth and even, he says. However, if we examine the business card with a microscope, we quickly see huge valleys in the paper that look like canyons and ravines, like a river structure or watershed. Our tissues are the same.
"The carbon collects in the river and starts to fill up the canyons, acting like the carbon fiber mesh that doctors put on the skin of burn victims to regrow skin," says Gresca. Anyone with a microscope can observe it. The carbon just seeks out the bottom of the canyon or tear, and it fills it—laying down a scaffolding of carbon for tissue regeneration. The carbon fiber supports tissue regeneration because carbon is the backbone of life."
Despite the universality of carbon in our bodies, perhaps the third reason C60 has been slow to catch on is that there have been two studies released claiming that internal consumption of C60 could potentially damage DNA molecules or disrupt its structure.15
In answer to that concern, professional toxicologist Neiusma weighs in heavily in support of C60. "These two papers have removed all the complexity of the real-life situation and placed isolated DNA in a test tube with C60, removing the proteins, the histones, the chromosomes, the organelles, the organ systems, and all the interaction of physiologic processes that protect DNA in the natural state.
"As well, these in vitro studies do not address all the good research in animals that has been published and shows no toxicity whatsoever across the whole spectrum of relevant dose ranges. These authors have taken a snapshot out of a movie and are trying to draw conclusions about the movie without having any background or context."
For those already using C60 for health reasons, there is no question in their minds that C60 is of deep and lasting benefit to their lives. "I've seen C60 address chronic inflammatory issues like Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut syndrome," says Dr Josh Beaudry, a chiropractor in Denver, Colorado.
He's also recommended it to patients for chronic inflammatory processes like multiple sclerosis (MS) as he's seen improvement with many of his patients taking it. One of his patients, Donna, a 65-year-old from Greenwood Village, Colorado, had been suffering from muscle aches and cramps, fatigue and stress. When she finally went to see Beaudry, one of the first things he did was recommend that she start taking C60 as an oral food supplement. Within a few weeks her symptoms improved. Now, she says, she no longer gets the muscle aches and cramps she used to have after a workout.
"I have doubled my exercise routine in length and doubled the weights I use," she says. "I have a better ability to handle stress, more energy and higher immunity to illness." When she does experience the occasional sore muscles or muscle spasm, she uses C60 topically and, she says, "The spasms go away in minutes."
Beaudry takes C60 himself and says it definitely boosts his energy. He also says, laughingly, that he knows younger people who take it as a sure-fire cure for hangovers.
C60 can also be used topically. Myers says that early in his use of C60, he had a female patient come in with a severe case of shingles that she'd had for a couple weeks. He gave her some of his own supply and told her to dab it on her shingles and come see him in three days. "She took my bottle and when she came back the shingles were almost half gone."
It may seem odd that something with the nickname "buckyballs" could be so beneficial and restorative for the human body. But then, perhaps not. Astronomer Letizia Stanghellini of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, once commented that it's possible that buckyballs from outer space provided the seeds for all life on Earth. Perhaps C60 isn't so new on the scene after all.
Not yet something
Why is the buckyball such a health-giving molecule? One clue may lie in the most famous experiment in quantum physics:the double-slit experiment.
In the experiment, an electron passing through two holes forms a zebra pattern of alternating dark and light bands on the final blank screen. Since you need at least two waves to create such interference patterns, the implication of the experiment is that the subatomic particle exhibits wave-like properties, enabling it to travel through both slits at the same time.
Quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger of the Institute for Experimental Physics lab at the University of Vienna used buckyballs instead of subatomic particles for a double-slit experiment. The results were unequivocal: the buckyballs also appeared to travel through both slits at once.
This suggests that, like a subatomic particle, even these giant molecules have not 'localized' into a single state. The C60 molecule may in fact exist in a malleable state and exhibit other quantum properties, including the ability to act non-locally, affecting other molecules at a distance.
Anti-aging foods and supplements
The best formula for living a long and healthy life is pretty basic: eating right, drinking plenty of clean water, getting sufficient sleep and exercising daily. As far as eating right is concerned, avoid processed foods full of additives, GMOs, pesticides and herbicides. Avoid most commercial fats and oils (especially trans fats), which are loaded with free radicals. Use butter, coconut oil and avocado oil for cooking. Do not cook with olive oil, as high heat will release free radicals. Eat foods that contain antioxidants, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables. Try eating chicken, fish, shellfish, Brazil nuts, organ meats and poultry, all of which contain selenium—a known anti-aging nutrient. For spices, gravitate to garlic and turmeric.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a fatty acid and antioxidant that can improve mitochondrial function and increase energy.
Suggested daily dosage: 300-600 mg
Catalase enzymes protect cells from oxidative damage.
Suggested daily dosage: 500 mg
Cod liver oil helps reduce the effects of oxidation, especially in the brain.
Suggested daily dosage: 300-600 mg
Resveratrol is a molecule found in grapes and red wine that combats toxins and age-related symptoms.
Suggested daily dosage: 500-1000 mg
Seleno-methionine (a form of selenium) is an anti-aging supplement.
Suggested daily dosage: 100 µg
Nicotinamide riboside is a precursor to the enzyme NAD+ that helps repair mitochondria.
Suggested daily dosage: 300 mg/kg/day
Getting older by feeling younger
Joe Nieusma, PhD, a toxicologist from Denver says, "I'm a 50-year-old wannabe athlete and always work too hard for what my body lets me do. I was always finding myself behind the eight ball, thinking 'I'm tired and beat up. I'm getting old.' This stuff helps me get through that."
The very first thing he noticed after he began taking C60 was that within a day or two, when he blinked his eyes, he no longer saw "floaters" in his field of vision. The next thing he noticed was that he slept much better. "I wake up energetic and ready to go all day long. I feel like I recover better from my workouts doing weightlifting, swimming and playing ice hockey."
He also started his parents, both of whom are 78 years old, on C60. "My mom immediately noticed within the first two days of using C60 that the aches and pains of getting out of bed in the morning were gone."
John Arlotti, 69, of Castle Rock, Colorado, has endured significant medical challenges including a stroke over his lifetime. Since he began taking C60 five years ago, he says he's noticed increased energy, less fatigue, improved vision, improved range of motion and fewer stroke-related symptoms of depression and memory loss.
"My depression is completely reversed and memory loss is also gone with C60 use," he says. "I feel years younger. I've had a bad back my entire life, and now I wake every morning without pain. I feel wonderful, positive and ready to go. It's a great way to tackle getting older by feeling younger!"
Jesse Heron, 70, of Austin, Texas, had been experiencing low energy, digestive problems such as diarrhea and mild nausea, food sensitivities, inflammation in her joints, a "foggy" mind and memory loss. She ran across information on C60 on the internet around Christmas 2017, ordered some, and started taking it orally in January 2018.
"Very soon after I started taking C60, I noticed a mental clarity and an increased energy to the point it kept me awake if I took it too late in the day." She says very quickly she began to experience a very pronounced sense of wellbeing and more electrical energy in her body. Her joint pain eased and so did her digestive issues. "I'm generally less achy and have noticed an improvement in my physical health and feel more alert and present."
She says she stopped taking C60 as a daily supplement because she ran out, and it was several weeks before she started taking it again. "It was really interesting. I could tell the difference immediately when I stopped taking it. I was very glad to get some again!"
Dr Phil Meyers: www.phiwholeness.com