Researchers studied the effects of C60 fullerene on leukemia cells, and used it in combination with visible light to increase the death of these cancer cells.
The structure of Carbon 60 fullerene molecules makes it really good at cleaning up free radicals, which are free electrons that result from oxidative stress, and can cause cell damage and aging.
At the same time, it’s also able to absorb both UV and visible light, and in certain environments it can create radicals that are toxic to cells.
So the scientists decided to combine these unique properties of C60 fullerene to see if they could create a light-activated substance for damaging cancer cells, also called photodynamic therapy or PDT.
The idea behind this was to both irreversibly damage the cancer cells and also to trigger the cancer cells automatic cell death process, known as apoptosis.
Previous research has shown that C60 fullerene activated by light, under certain conditions, can damage cell membranes, chop up DNA strands and kill cancer cells.
However, the same C60 fullerene was non-toxic in normal cells when not activated by light.
The researchers used a specific process (ultrasound sonication) to suspend the C60 molecules in water, which can be highly stable if stored at 4°C.
The fullerene C60 molecules are generally very attracted to the fatty molecules which make up cell walls, making it easy for it to enter cells.
For comparison, the researchers also treated leukemia cells with hydrogen peroxide, which is known to increase oxidative stress in cells.
Although we know that the effect of light-activated fullerene C60 on cancer cells is because they produce free radicals within the cells, the exact biochemical pathway is still not clear.
There’s a group of enzymes called phosphotyrosine kinases (or PTKs) that seem to become over-active in cells that grow out of control, as happens in cancer. The researchers found that one of the ways that light-activated C60 might be having its effect on cancer cells is by inhibiting the activity of PTKs.
They also found that light-activated fullerene C60 may also weaken the membranes inside the cell, especially around the mitochondria, making it harder for the cells to generate the energy they need to survive.
And they concluded that photo-activated C60 might be a potential solution for making drug-resistant leukemia cells more sensitive to dying via programmed cell death.
Read the full article here: Fullerene C60 Penetration into Leukemic Cells and Its Photoinduced Cytotoxic Effects by D. Franskevych, et al; Nanoscale Res Lett, Volume 12, 13 Jan 2017, Page 40
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