Eating buckyballs by the pawful nearly doubles lifespan of rats

Rodents are typically the immediate beneficiaries of new medical tech, which is only fair as they deal with the other end of things, too. Usually just trying random stuff doesn't yield much in the way of benefits, but as it turns out, stuffing rats full of carbon 60 molecules increases their lifespan. By a lot.

We've known for a long time that buckminsterfullerene (little molecular soccer balls made up of sixy atoms of carbon) isn't especially toxic or reactive in biological models. And that's good, but we haven't been able to figure out a way in which this stuff can be particularly helpful over the long term, either.

A paper currently in press in the journal Biomaterials investigates what happens when you feed rats gobs of buckyballs suspended in olive oil for extended periods of time. Six sets of 10 rats got to partake in 1.7mg of C60 per kg of body weight on a daily, weekly, and bi-weekly basis for seven straight months. Not only did the C60-fed rats manage not to keel over, but by the time a control group of rats who got a placebo had all died, and a group of rats who had just been fed olive oil had mostly died, the C60 rats were still going strong, ultimately exhibiting an increase in lifespan of 90% over the control group.

The study suggests that "the effect on lifespan is mainly due to the attenuation of age-associated increases in oxidative stress," which is something that is thought to contribute to a lot of different age-related ailments, so even if buckyballs aren't targeting a disease specifically, it's clear that they provide some substantial medical benefits. At least, in rats. A few rats. In this one study. Unfortunately, a lot of the medical breakthroughs that happen in mouse and rat models just don't translate into humans, but with promising results at this stage, there's no reason not to be at least a little bit optimistic.

Paper, via NBF

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