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Scientists create modified fullerene capable of fighting HIV

Scientists believe that the results of their research will enable the creation of antiviral fullerene-based medications with great prospects

MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. Researchers from the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technologies (Skoltech), the Institute of Problems of Chemical Physics RAS, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), and Rega Institute for Medical Research KU Leuven (Belgium) produced new substances based on fullerene with one showing pronounced antiviral activity against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and others, Skoltech’s press office announced. The study’s results were published in the journal, Organics & Biomolecular Chemistry.

"Previously, we had developed methods to synthesize substances with bonds of C-C, C-S, C-N, and C-P between the fullerene frame and organic functional groups. Water-soluble compounds synthesized according to our methods have a broad range of biological activities including antiviral, antitumor, and neuron-protecting properties," commented Skoltech Professor Pavel Troshin, who is one of the study’s authors, at the Institute’s Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage.

Carbon atoms can be bound to each other in different ways yielding various modifications, for instance, graphite, diamond, or graphene. One of the modifications is fullerene where carbon atoms form closed frame structures. A ball-shaped molecule consisting of 60 carbon atoms looks very similar to a football.

The fullerene molecules are hydrophobic, hence, making them soluble in water, several ionic functional groups (the molecular fragments) should be attached which change fullerene’s properties. The addition of functional groups to fullerene is a challenge for organic chemists. In this study, the researchers decided to begin not with fullerene, but rather with chloro-fullerene which includes 6 chlorine atoms apart from the carbon frame and which can be easily produced from the original fullerene. By substituting chlorine atoms with functional groups, various fullerene derivatives with different features including antiviral activity can be produced.

"The biological impact of compounds markedly depends on the type of bond between the carbon frame and functional groups. This is what motivated us to focus on the synthesis and investigate a principally new group of substances where the functional groups are bound to the carbon frame by means of C-O bonds. When studying the interaction of chloro-fullerene C60Cl6 with alcohols, we discovered several new reactions enabling the production of various classes of compounds with added alcohol and hydroxyacids fragments. In the research performed by our colleagues from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, the water-soluble derivative of fullerene with five residuals of 3-hydroxypropane acid demonstrated pronounced inhibiting activity toward HIV," Professor Troshin noted.

Scientists believe that the results of their research will enable the creation of antiviral fullerene-based medications with great prospects and launch them on to the pharmaceutical market in the future.