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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 16;100(19):11065-9. Epub 2003 Aug 14.

Trace amounts of copper in water induce beta-amyloid plaques and learning deficits in a rabbit model of Alzheimer's disease.

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Sun Health Research Institute, 10515 West Santa Fe Drive, Sun City, AZ 85351, USA.

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  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 30;100(20):11816.


Despite the crucial role played by cholesterol and copper in nutrition and normal brain function, recent evidence indicates that they may both be important factors in the etiology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here we provide critical evidence for the role of cholesterol and copper in AD by showing that the addition of trace amounts of copper (0.12 ppm) to water given to cholesterol-fed rabbits can induce beta-amyloid (Abeta) accumulation, including senile plaque-like structures in the hippocampus and temporal lobe, and can significantly retard the ability of rabbits to learn a difficult trace conditioning task. The Abeta deposits do not affect the ability of rabbits to detect or respond to the training stimuli nor to learn a simpler delay conditioning task. Trace amounts of copper in drinking water may influence clearance of Abeta from the brain at the level of the interface between the blood and cerebrovasculature and combined with high cholesterol may be a key component to the accumulation of Abeta in the brain, having a significant impact on learning and memory. Cholesterol-fed rabbits have at least 12 pathological markers seen in AD, suggesting that the cholesterol-fed rabbit is a good animal model for studying AD.

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