Medicinal applications of fullerenes

Fullerenes have been applied in many fields of science thanks to their hydrophobicity, three-dimensionality and electronic configurations. These properties make it useful in medicinal chemistry and as they have interesting carbon cage structure which is being coupled with large scope for derivatization and this makes them potential therapeutic agent.

While it’s still a long road to take before the use of fullerenes and other nanomaterials become widespread, the research and improvement in this field doesn’t stop. Companies such as MST nano and countless others are doing a lion’s share of work in this regard, and we may soon witness a nano-revolution at this rate!

Fullerene family is used in many medical fields

The fullerene family, mainly C60 can be used in many medical fields. It can also fit in the hydrophobic cavity of HIV proteases and inhibit the enter of substrates to the catalytic site of enzyme. Fullerene is also radical scavenger or antioxidant. When it is exposed to the light it produces single oxygen in high quantum yields.  This, accompanied by direct electron transfer from excited state of fullerene and DNA bases, is good to cleave DNA. Fullerenes are used as a carrier for gene and drug delivery systems. Fullerenes are used as serum protein profiling as MELDI material for biomarker discovery.

Antiviral activity of fullerenes

Huge medical interest are compounds with antiviral activity. They can be also very sufficient when delaying or preventing the onset of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome which abbreviation is AIDS. There are studies suggesting that relative position – trans-2 of substituents on fullerenes and positive charges close to fullerenes cage has the antiviral structural activity.

Fullerenes depicted as photosensitizers 

C60 can also serve as photosensitizers thanks to their photoexcitation. Maybe you can ask yourself why? It is due to the fact that they can be excited from ground state to 1C60 via photoirradiation. However these are short-lived species, they can be quickly changed into long-lived 3C60 thanks to the intersystem crossing. And in recent time (in 2007) Mroz et al discovered that monoatomic fullerene can really effective photosensitizer for killing cancer cells thanks to quick induction of apoptosis after illumination.

Fullerenes as drugs and useful media in gene delivery

In medical research the direct drug delivery and biomolecules through cell membrane obtained a huge attention as this is much safer and efficient at the same time. A great number of nanoparticles could be used in the future like this as they are very versatile, for example good biocompatibility, selective targeted delivery or controlled release of carried drugs. And fullerenes are such class of inorganic nanoparticles and they have large availability thanks to the fact they are little and biologically active as well.

Fullerenes as antioxidant

They are other studies which proved that fullerenes family could be the biological antioxidant as well. It is due to the fact that fullerenes have a huge number of conjugated double bonds and at the same time low lying lowest unoccupied molecular orbital that could very easily take up an electron and thus make the attack of radical species highly possible. By derivatization of fullerene with polar groups, these can become water soluble enabling them to cross cell membrane and thanks to this localize preferentially to mitochondria. Thanks to this it can localize preferentially to mitochondria and generate a huge number of cellular oxygen free radicals which makes it of a great use in many fields of medical application.

Diagnostic application

They can also carry an unstable atom, e. g. a metal atom within the interior of the molecular cage forming endofullerenes/metallofullerenes which could isolate reactive atoms from the environment.


As fullerenes were found at the end of the 20th century a lot of important properties and aspects are being studied. According to the recent research the fullerene applications will be used in many practical technologies, for example in IT devices, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, energy industries or even in environmental. However, fullerenes have large scale of application. They can be applied like in this article or you can find out more about fullerenes in here.

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