Copper on the Brain
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Copper on the Brain

14 June 2013

Researchers have developed a new way to find out more about copper’s unique chemical properties that make it essential to a healthy brain.

Berkeley Lab chemist Christopher Chang and his research group at UC Berkeley have developed a series of fluorescent probes for molecular imaging of copper in the brain.


These fluorescent probes can help map the movement of copper in the brain triggered by neuronal activity. This direct, real-time visualization of copper movement can help in the detection and treatment of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Menkes’ and Wilson’s, as disruption of copper oxidation in the brain has been linked to many of these conditions.


“The complex relationships between copper status and various stages of health and disease have been difficult to determine in part because of a lack of methods for monitoring dynamic changes in copper pools in whole living organisms,” says Chang.


“We’ve been designing fluorescent probes that can map the movement of copper in live cells, tissue or even model organisms, such as mice and zebrafish,” he adds.


Copper researcher, Christopher Chang



The research team’s latest copper probe - Coppersensor 790 (CS790) - is a fluorescent sensor ideal for penetrating thicker biological specimens. CS790 is currently being used to study a mouse model of Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder characterized by an accumulation of excess copper.


“The in vivo fluorescence detection of copper provided by CS790 and our other fluorescent probes is opening up unique opportunities to explore the roles that copper plays in the healthy physiology of the brain, as well as in the development and progression copper-related diseases,” Chang said.

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