Research aims to provide answers to unexplained heart attacks that occur frequently in animals and humans.
A University of Maryland researcher received a $1.39 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of copper on human and animal health. Dr. Byung-Eun Kim, assistant professor in College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, will use the funds to continue his groundbreaking work in the field of copper signaling throughout the body.
"Copper is an essential mineral for sustaining life, yet it is toxic when misplaced or accumulated in excess,” said Kim. “The proper acquisition, distribution and utilization of copper and the regulation of copper metabolism are vital to normal human health.”
Copper helps promote normal organ functioning, growth and development in both animals and humans. Copper imbalance is associated with several diseases, including heart disease, the leading cause of natural death in the United States. The heart requires large amounts of copper to function correctly, especially during physical activity. The research aims to provide answers to unexplained heart attacks that occur frequently in animals and humans. Dr. Kim previously discovered that when the heart was low on copper, extra copper was exported from the intestines to the bloodstream, circulating to the heart. The discovery, which had not been observed before, suggests that tissues within the body “communicate” in order to correct copper imbalances.
Dr. Kim will specifically explore the communication pathway and the molecule that “tells” certain organs to export more copper. He will also examine what happens to the body when the communication pathway breaks, and when the body is stressed. Research on the signaling molecule, the communication pathway and the copper transport system in the body has huge implications in both
“Learning about this pathway will give us a better understanding of why heart attacks occur,” said Dr. Kim. “It will also guide the development of medications and techniques that can address imbalanced copper levels in the body.”