Toxicity of pristine versus functionalized fullerenes: mechanisms of cell damage and the role of oxidative stress
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The fullerene C-60, due to the physicochemical properties of its spherical cage-like molecule build exclusively from carbon atoms, is able to both scavenge and generate reactive oxygen species. While this unique dual property could be exploited in biomedicine, the low water solubility of C-60 hampers the investigation of its behavior in biological systems. The C-60 can be brought into water by solvent extraction, by complexation with surfactants/polymers, or by long-term stirring, yielding pristine (unmodified) fullerene suspensions. On the other hand, a modification of the C-60 core by the attachment of various functional groups results in the formation of water-soluble fullerene derivatives. Assessment of toxicity associated with C-60 preparations is of pivotal importance for their biomedical application as cytoprotective (antioxidant), cytotoxic (anticancer), or drug delivery agents. Moreover, the widespread industrial utilization of fullerenes may also have implications for human h...ealth. However, the alterations in physicochemical properties imposed by the utilization of different methods for C-60 solubilization profoundly influence toxicological effects of fullerene preparations, thus making the analysis of their potential therapeutic and environmental toxicity difficult. This review provides a comprehensive evaluation of the in vitro and in vivo toxicity of fullerenes, focusing on the comparison between pristine and derivatized C-60 preparations and the mechanisms of their toxicity to mammalian cells and tissues.