September 22, 2008

Study: Buckyballs Accumulate in the Body

U.S. scientists have discovered synthetic carbon molecules called fullerenes, or buckyballs, can accumulated in animal tissue, but break down in sunlight.

Purdue University researchers who made the discovery said it's important to know how buckyballs function since they might see widespread use in such applications such as drug-delivery vehicles for cancer therapy, military armor or as chemical sensors.

"Because of the numerous potential applications, it is important to learn how buckyballs react in the environment and what their possible environmental impacts might be," Professor Chad Jafvert said.

"This work points out the need for a better understanding of where the materials go in the environment," Jafvert said. "Our results show they are going to be taken up by fish and other organisms, possibly to toxic levels. This, however, indicates only the potential of buckyballs to bioaccumulate. They could break down in the environment or in an organism once taken up."

The study that included doctoral student Pradnya Kulkarni is detailed in the August issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.