Facing up to fullerenes


The environmental impact of nanotechnology is the cause of much debate – some of it quite heated. Are nanoparticles dangerous – will nanobots prey on our bodies as well as our minds, and how long before the Earth is overrun with grey goo? Well, we simply don’t know. The extreme visions of a famed novelist and a future king may not be the best indicators, but a lot more research needs to be done before we can even start answering such questions.

I was intrigued (and a little amazed), therefore, to read a recent article by Bethany Halford in Chemical and Engineering News about the use of buckminsterfullerene (C-60) in cosmetics. As she points out, there is some evidence that C-60 might not be the benign little soccer ball we all know and love.

I decided to visit the website of one C-60-containing product, Zelens Day Cream, and see what they had to say for themselves:

Zelens creams uniquely contain Fullerene C60, an extremely powerful anti-oxidant, for which its three discoverers received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1997.

Hum… it was actually 1996, but who’s counting?

In the pharmaceutical industry, Fullerene C60 is expected to play a major part in the fight against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Aids and many other diseases in which oxidation plays an important role.

A universal cure-all? Is there anything “Fullerene C60” can’t do? Seriously now, just how much of an impact is C60 making in the pharmaceutical industry? Has the early hype turned into future hope? I didn’t think it had, but please, let me know if I’m wrong about this…

The creams arise out of Dr Lens’ extensive research in the field of skin cancer, reflected in the many papers by him published in leading medical journals.

A search on Thomsons’ ISI Web of Science for Dr Marko B Lens indicates that he has published 16 papers.

Anyway, I’m not likely to become acquainted with this product, because at more than 130 GBP for a 30 mL jar, I couldn’t face it. How about you?


Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)

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