Biomedical potential of the reactive oxygen species generation and quenching by fullerenes (C60)

Biomaterials. 2008 Sep;29(26):3561-73. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2008.05.005. Epub 2008 Jun 4.


Fullerene (C60), a third carbon allotrope, is a classical engineered material with the potential application in biomedicine. One of the biologically most relevant features of C60 is the ability to quench various free radicals, behaving as a "free radical sponge". Conversely, photosensitization of C60 leads to its transition to a long-lived triplet excited state and the subsequent energy or electron transfer to molecular oxygen, yielding highly reactive singlet oxygen (1O2) or superoxide anion (O2-), respectively. These reactive oxygen species (ROS) react with a wide range of biological targets and are known to be involved in both cellular signaling and cell damage. Therefore, the dual property of fullerenes to either quench or generate cell-damaging ROS could be potentially exploited for their development as cytoprotective or cytotoxic anticancer/antimicrobial agents. However, the attempts to that effect have been hampered by the extremely low water solubility of C60, and by the fact that solubilization procedures profoundly influence the ROS-generating/quenching properties of C60, either through chemical modification or through formation of complex nanoscale particles with different photophysical properties. We here analyze the mechanisms and biological consequences of ROS generation/quenching by C60, focusing on the influence that different physico-chemical alterations exert on its ROS-related biological behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoprotection*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / chemistry
  • Free Radical Scavengers / metabolism
  • Fullerenes / chemistry*
  • Fullerenes / metabolism
  • Fullerenes / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / therapeutic use
  • Solvents / chemistry
  • Surface-Active Agents / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry


  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Fullerenes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Solvents
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Water