The many "faces" of copper in medicine and treatment

Biometals. 2014 Aug;27(4):611-21. doi: 10.1007/s10534-014-9736-5. Epub 2014 Apr 20.


Copper (Cu) is an essential microelement found in all living organisms with the unique ability to adopt two different redox states-in the oxidized (Cu(2+)) and reduced (Cu(+)). It is required for survival and serves as an important catalytic cofactor in redox chemistry for proteins that carry out fundamental biological functions, important in growth and development. The deficit of copper can result in impaired energy production, abnormal glucose and cholesterol metabolism, increased oxidative damage, increased tissue iron (Fe) accrual, altered structure and function of circulating blood and immune cells, abnormal neuropeptides synthesis and processing, aberrant cardiac electrophysiology, impaired myocardial contractility, and persistent effects on the neurobehavioral and the immune system. Increased copper level has been found in several disorders like e.g.: Wilson's disease or Menke's disease. New findings with the great potential for impact in medicine include the use of copper-lowering therapy for antiangiogenesis, antifibrotic and anti-inflammatory purposes. The role of copper in formation of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease, and successful treatment of this disorder in rodent model by copper chelating are also of interest. In this work we will try to describe essential aspects of copper in chosen diseases. We will represent the evidence available on adverse effect derived from copper deficiency and copper excess. We will try to review also the copper biomarkers (chosen enzymes) that help reflect the level of copper in the body.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Copper / physiology*
  • Copper / toxicity
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Hepatolenticular Degeneration / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Menkes Kinky Hair Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metalloproteins / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metalloproteins
  • Copper