Press Releases

Is Copper a Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease?

University of Houston Researcher Examines the Link


tai-yen-chen-newsroom Assistant professor of chemistry Tai-Yen Chen is exploring the link between the amount of copper in brain cells and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
By Laurie Fickman, University of Houston | September 16, 2019

A University of Houston chemist is exploring the link between copper protein molecules in brain cells and their link to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“Scientists have studied Alzheimer’s disease for 100 years and still no one knows the cause,” said assistant professor of chemistry Tai-Yen Chen, who will use his $1.9 million award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to advance his theory that the balance of copper protein within a single cell may be a culprit.

Copper is an essential brain cell nutrient, helping neurons communicate, or relay messages, to each other. In healthy cells, the amount of copper is tightly regulated to stay at the proper levels. Scientists long ago found that people with Alzheimer’s have unusually high levels of copper in the beta amyloid plaques that are a signature of the disease.

“It was an unusual finding, and we want to know more about it,” said Chen, who will examine the biological regulation of copper to identify potential causes of diseases marked by abnormal amounts of copper in cells. Several diseases are linked to copper imbalances, including Menkes disease, a nervous system disorder marked by low levels of copper, and Wilson disease, a genetic disorder in which too much copper is present.

Little is known about how these metalloproteins are individually regulated or how they cooperate with each other in their native environment, living cells.

“We want to figure out how cells regulate or manipulate the copper inside them to maintain the optimum copper level,” said Chen, who will examine individual neuron and liver cells. “We will use a unique method, studying a single cell to examine its behavior, then repeat it on many of them to get information from the collective behavior.”

The research will provide mechanistic insights into metalloprotein-mediated copper uptake and secretion processes and copper distribution. To ensure his research outcomes will provide valuable insight into human health, Chen is using stem cells to recreate human neuron and liver cells with both normal copper levels and with copper deficiency.

“If we can figure out how copper regulation is different between normal and diseased cells, it will shed light on understanding the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases,” he said.

Chen is the first University of Houston researcher to receive the Maximizing Investigators Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.




Social Posts

profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Inez Foley said it was a privilege to serve her country https://t.co/X124XQMggA via @frednewspost

48 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“Coming to MD Anderson right away saved my life. And now, it’s giving me my best opportunity to stay that way,” says Linda Duggan.She shares her #breastcancer story: https://t.co/M8aKrfdF6J @WTereffeMD @AbigailCaudleMD #bcsm #endcancer

2 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

The Accountable Health Communities Training Team at @UTexasSPH is working to integrate healthcare and public health implementation teams to address social needs of patients: https://t.co/A0WatIJj7X #ManyFacesOfUTHealth

2 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

See how Dr. Priya Davar stays fit in this week's Healthy Habits. https://t.co/Ro6Gpdox4t #healthy #habits

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Veterans help with recovery in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael https://t.co/9nujT461Kk via @WJHG_TV

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

#VAResearchInAction: A multisite VA study on coronary artery bypass graft surgery, published in 2009, has helped improve how doctors perform the operation by showing the advantages of on, vs off-pump surgery for patients https://t.co/IBg4XPc9Ub via @VAECHCS @VAResearch https://t.co/YBhlQlGRBN

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Ready to help give #cancer the boot? Join us for our @BootWalk on Saturday, Nov. 9.Register today: https://t.co/5Fne3tyOUj #endcancer https://t.co/prUGIjYRK7

5 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“As a doctor, I should’ve known better,” says #colorectalcancer survivor Dr. Kenneth Rolston of putting off a #colonoscopy: https://t.co/29x843CW8j #CancerMoonshot #endcancer

6 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Join Dr. Matthew Ellis and staff member Josh Newby tomorrow for the @KomenHouston's Metastatic Breast Cancer Webinar on clinical trials. Learn more: https://t.co/pcgeeYq6ox #metastaticbreastcancer #MetastaticBreastCancerAwarenessDay

6 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Did you know lowering your blood pressure 15 points cuts your heart attack risk by 60%? See what you can do to bring your number down. https://t.co/I3bPMst5Vk #bloodpressure #hearthealth

8 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@WambiCares @ANCCMagCon Thanks for the shout-out

22 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

RT @ATTSportsNetSW: TK'S Keys to the Game brought to you by @MethodistHosp@RealToddKalas tells us his keys to the @astros Game 1 of the…

22 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@itsgreg72 Thank you for sharing your comment with us. Houston Methodist strives to deliver the highest quality, service and care to all our patients. We would like to discuss this issue. Please call 713.441.4100 or visit https://t.co/wPtazimDiv

22 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHCougarFB: TOUCHDOWN COOGS!@BrysonSmith_17 with a dime to Jeremy Singleton.UC 14, UH 10 (11:36/2Q) #GoCoogs https://t.co/cvxE550l…

1 day ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHCougars: There is still time for @UHouston students to claim their tickets to today’s game!The TDECU Stadium box office is open!…

1 day ago