Michael J. Petris




Ophthalmology and Biochemistry - School of Medicine

Research at a glance

Area(s) of Expertise

Research Summary

Regulation of metal nutrition and impacts on common human diseases.

The micronutrient copper (Cu) is essential for several key enzymatic processes involved in energy generation, protection against reactive oxygen species, formation of blood vessels, immune function, and healthy functioning of the central nervous system. This nutrient is able to exist in two oxidation states Cu1+ and Cu2+, and participate in the generation of reactive oxygen species. A delicate balance of copper homeostasis must be maintained to provide sufficient levels of this nutrient, while preventing toxic build up.

Copper and Cancer

Recent evidence suggests that copper plays a key role in tumor growth because this metal is essential for blood vessel formation (angiogenesis). Drugs that bind copper may inhibit tumor growth by preventing angiogenesis.

Copper and Alzheimer’s Disease

Copper has been shown to interact with the toxic beta-amyloid peptide, and is present in high concentrations in amyloid plaques within in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Whether this copper is function in a protective or detrimental capacity is unknown.

Current Projects

Our lab is interested in characterizing the copper homeostasis pathways in animal and cell culture models of microbial infection, tumor growth and Alzheimer’s disease, and how this essential nutrient contributes to these pathologies.

Educational background

  • Ph.D. Genetics, University of Melbourne
  • B.S. Genetics, University of Melbourne