Researchers: Copper Treatments Stopped ALS Progression in Mice

Researchers at Oregon State University in Corvalis, Ore., have reported that they stopped amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) from progressing in a study using mice.

The study was so successful, they added, that the disease had been halted for nearly two years and had enabled the mice to “approach their normal lifespan.”

Results of the study were published in Neurobiology of Disease.

The study involved using a compound called Copper-ATSM “that helps deliver copper specifically to cells with damaged mitochondria, and reaches the spinal cord, where it’s needed to treat ALS,” a Jan. 28 news announcement said.

Advantages of the Copper-ATSM compound include its low toxicity and its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier easily. Researchers added that the compound is already used at lower doses in other human medications, and that laboratory animals tolerated higher doses of Copper-ATSM well.

“Any copper not needed after use of Copper-ATSM,” the news announcement said, “is quickly flushed out of the body.”

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia; University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas; University of Central Florida, Orlando; and the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, Uruguay, also worked on the study.

In one study, mice that received the Copper-ATSM treatment had survived for more than 650 days. Without treatment, the mice would have been expected to die within two weeks. Some mice were initially given the treatment, but then the treatment was stopped. Those mice developed ALS symptoms within two months and died shortly thereafter.

Joseph Beckman, the study’s lead author and professor of biochemistry and biophysics, College of Science, Oregon State University, said of the findings, “We are shocked at how well this treatment can stop the progression of ALS.”

But researchers warned that taking copper as a nutritional supplement would not affect ALS, and that copper can be toxic even in moderate doses.

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Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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