Toxic effects within in vitro experiments are not caused by the fullerenes themselves but most often by the solvents or derivatives of solvents in which they are suspended.


Fullerene with flask © madamlead / Fotolia.comFullerene with flask © madamlead / Fotolia.comFullerenes are difficult to suspend in water due to their chemical properties. They form stable aggregates up to 500 nm in diameter, yet are small enough to be taken up by lung cells. Surface-functionalized fullerene are not considered in this evaluation.

The toxicity of fullerenes is very controversially discussed. The diverging findings and opinions on the toxicity of C60 result from the different ways of preparing the suspensions needed for the subsequent in vitro testing. If fullerenes are suspended in solvents like Tetrahydrofuran and thereafter transferred into water, active THF by-products like tetrahydrofuran peroxides are generated accidentally and mainly responsible for most of the acute toxic effects. These effects can be eliminated by removing the by-products through additional washing steps. This finding is confirmed in several studies [1-4].

Pure fullerenes, without any solvent or solvent residues do not induce any adverse effects in lung or skin cells.


Literature arrow down

  1. Spohn, P et al. (2009), Environ Pollut, 157(4): 1134-1139.
  2. Xia, XR et al. (2010), Toxicol Lett, 197(2): 128-134
  3. Xia, XR et al. (2010), Toxicol Appl Pharmacol, 242(1): 29-37
  4. Kadoya, C et al (2016), Nanotoxicol, 10(2):194-203



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