This post was commissioned by one of my freelancing clients, and was published by permission.
In a 2012 French study, researchers looking for the toxicity of -fullerene (carbon buckyballs) in rats instead found that an olive oil emulsion of buckyballs increased lifespan by 90%.
This is the largest life-extension effect on mice I’ve seen to date, and it comes from a chemical that’s very little studied in life extension. There’s only one study of -fullerene on lifespan. Until it replicates, it might well be a fluke.
Derek Lowe of the blog In the Pipeline, a medicinal chemist and skeptical observer of drug development, was as baffled as I am.
Fullerenes aren't totally unstudied in a medical context. They have some antiviral properties, and they're extremely efficient free radical scavengers.
"The antioxidant property is based on the fact that fullerenes possess large amount of conjugated double bonds and low lying lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) which can easily take up an electron, making an attack of radical species highly possible. It has been reported that up to 34 methyl radicals have been added onto a single C60 molecule. This quenching process appears to be catalytic. In other words the fullerene can react with many superoxides without being consumed. Due to this feature fullerenes are considered to be the world’s most efficient radical scavenger and are described as radical sponges."
So it’s possible that, if fullerenes actually do extend life, they do so via antioxidant properties.
All we have so far is hearsay, as far as replication goes. One blogger says it failed to replicate; my friend who invests in longevity biotech says that other replication attempts are still underway and that a friend of his “independently replicated the lifespan effect in his own lab”.
Trying to replicate this experiment is really high value, and could be the start of a biotech company if it succeeded.