Fangyu Peng

Fangyu Peng

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, USA

Title: Altered copper metabolism as a theranostic biomarker in neurodegeneration


Fangyu Peng has graduated from Jiangxi Medical College, China, in 1982 and obtained his Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from University of South Florida, USA, in 1994. He completed his nuclear medicine residency training at University of Connecticut Health Center in 2000, and clinical fellowship in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging at National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in 2003. He is Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of PET Translational Imaging, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, USA. He has published more than 30 papers in reputed journals and serving as an editorial board member of Journal of Radiology and Radiation Therapy.


Copper is an essential nutrient element in mammals, but excess of copper is cytotoxic. Copper homeostasis is tightly regulated by a delicate network of copper transporters and chaperons. Wilson’s disease, or hepatolenticular degeneration, is an inherited copper metabolism disorder caused by mutation of ATP7B gene characterized by accumulation of excess copper ions in liver and brain tissues. Positron emission tomography (PET) is a versatile tool for real-time assessment of copper fluxes in vivo noninvasively and quantitatively. Increased accumulation of 64Cu in liver of Atp7b -/- knockout mice, a well-established mouse model of Wilson’s disease, was demonstrated by measuring copper fluxes in vivo with PET/CT using copper-64 chloride (64CuCl2) as a radioactive tracer (64CuCl2-PET/CT). Age-dependent increase of 64Cu radioactivity was detected in the brain of Atp7b -/- knockout mice at 20 weeks of age compared with 64Cu radioactivity in the brains of Atp7b -/- knockout mice at 6 to 12 weeks of age. In addition to hepatolenticular degeneration, emerging body of evidence suggests the role of copper metabolism disturbance in pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and several other neurodegenerative diseases. Altered copper metabolism may be a useful theranostic biomarker for early diagnosis of AD at preclinical stage with PET/CT using 64CuCl2 as a radioactive tracer. Based on favorable outcome of copper-modulating therapy in clinical management of the patients diagnosed with Wilson’s disease, altered copper metabolism holds potential as a therapeutic target for copper modulating therapy of AD and other neuro degenerative disease associated with disturbance of cerebral copper metabolism.