Photo of Joseph S. Beckman

Principal Investigator and Burgess and Elizabeth Jamieson Chair in Healthspan Research, 
Linus Pauling Institute
Distinguished Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Director, Environmental Health Sciences Center

Contact Information:
1011 Ag & Life Sciences Bldg
541-737-8867 / 541-737-4371 (fax)
joe.beckman@oregonstate.edu

Research Interests

A major research project in my laboratory is aimed at understanding how oxidative stress, superoxide dismutase, and zinc are involved in Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS is a dreadful disease caused by the unexplained death of motor neurons that control the movement of all voluntary muscles. We have only about 500,000 motor neurons at birth that cannot be replaced. One known cause of ALS is mutations in the antioxidant enzyme copper/zinc superoxide dismutase that results in the loss of zinc binding and then copper binding from the enzyme, making it toxic to motor neurons.

One of our major projects in the laboratory focuses on delivering copper to the enzyme to refold it properly. To this end, we are using a copper compound called Cu-ATSM, a form of copper that accumulates in hypoxic tissue, to deliver copper. Not only does Cu-ATSM appear to work in laboratory animals, it has recently facilitated linical trials on its therapies on humans with ALS.