Scientists have shown that soccer ball–shaped carbon molecules, commonly called buckyballs, can block allergic responses in both human cells and mice. The findings point to a new way of treating allergies using these nanoscale particles.
In recent years, several labs have begun harnessing the unusual physical and chemical properties of buckyballs to develop new drugs and diagnostic tools (SN: 7/13/02, p. 26). A buckyball consists of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a hollow, spherical shape. Scientists can easily modify the molecule's properties by attaching different chemical entities to its surface.
Several studies suggest that buckyballs act as strong antioxidants, or "free radical sponges," says Chris Kepley, an immunologist at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. In other words, they appear to sop up free radicals and other chemical species containing reactive oxygen, which are natural by-products of energy produc