University of Texas researchers Adela Ben-Yakar and Jon Pierce-Shimomura are on a mission. It’s professional, personal and not conducive to patience.
Armed with a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for “exceptionally innovative” research projects that can shift science in new directions, the two colleagues are devoting a large part of their professional lives to collaborating on new drug therapies for Alzheimer’s disease that might also slow down the aging process. It’s personal because Ben-Yakar’s mother has Alzheimer’s disease and is deteriorating. Pierce-Shimomura’s 10-year-old son has Down syndrome, which causes premature aging and a high risk of developing memory-stealing Alzheimer’s.
“I got into this because of him,” said Pierce-Shimomura, an assistant professor in neurobiology.
Ben-Yakar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, echoes that sentiment. “I’m losing her every day,” she said of her 78-year-old mother.
Neither has the time to be patient. Perhaps that is why they have turned to roundworms, rather than the traditional lab mice, for their drug studies.