Copper key to brain health

3 December 2014

Recent studies have shown that copper plays an integral part in maintaining a healthy brain, with many neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, being linked to improper copper oxidation.

Research has also linked the metal to the enzymes that activate the brain’s neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. A team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has shown that copper levels are essential to maintain health in a resting brain.

The team used new molecular imaging techniques to determine that copper is a "dynamic modulator of spontaneous activity of developing neural circuits," which is the baseline activity of neurons without active stimuli, according to lead author Chris Chang, a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division. 

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study demonstrated that dynamic and loosely bound pools of copper can also modulate neural activity, making them essential for normal development in the brain.

The team developed a fluorescent probe called Copper Fluor-3 (CF3) that allowed them to explore the potential contributions to cell signalling of these pools of copper in hippocampal neurons and retinal tissue in the brain.

Posted by Edward Bartel

 

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