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Scientists seek to deal with buckyballs

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Los Alamos researchers find a case where size really does matter

By Special to the Monitor

A Los Alamos National Laboratory toxicologist and a multidisciplinary team of researchers have documented potential cellular damage from “fullerenes”— soccer-ball-shaped, cage-like molecules composed of 60 carbon atoms. The team also noted that this particular type of damage might hold hope for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or even cancer.

The research recently appeared in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology and represents the first-ever observation of this kind for spherical fullerenes, also known as buckyballs, which take their names from the late Buckminster Fuller because they resemble the geodesic dome concept that he popularized.

Engineered carbon nanoparticles, which include fullerenes, are increasing in use worldwide. Each buckyball is a skeletal cage of carbon about the size of a virus.

They show potential for creating stronger, lighter structures or acting as tiny delivery mechanisms for designer drugs or antibiotics, among other uses.

About four to five tons of carbon nanoparticles are manufactured annually.


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