In vivo Biology and Toxicology of Fullerenes and Their Derivatives


Author for correspondence: Gunnar Damgård Nielsen, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkallé 105, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark (fax +45 39165201, e-mail


Abstract:  Fullerenes represent a group of nanoparticles discovered in 1985. They are spherical molecules consisting entirely of carbon atoms (Cx) to which side chains can be added, furnishing compounds with widely different properties. Fullerenes interact with biological systems, for example, by enzyme inhibition, causing phototoxic reactions, being scavengers of reactive oxygen species and free radicals, in addition to being able to initiate free radical reactions. Absorption, distribution and excretion strongly depend on the properties of the side chains. The pristine C60 has a very long biological half-life, whereas the most water-soluble derivatives are eliminated from the exposed animals within weeks. A long biological half-life raises concern about bioaccumulation and long-term effects. In general, the acute oral, dermal and airway toxicity is low. However, few relevant experimental studies of repeated dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and carcinogenic effect are available. The data suggest that direct DNA damaging effects are low, but formation of reactive oxygen species may cause inflammation and genetic damage. Apparently, it is dose-dependent whether a beneficial or an adverse effect occurs.