SMU Researchers' Alzheimer's Discovery Could Be Stepping Stone to Future Treatments

Both researchers were impacted by their personal experiences with Alzheimer's disease, so they set out to unlock its secrets. Then, they fell in love in the process.

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A personal connection to Alzheimer's disease has led two North Texas researchers to a major discovery.

Both James McCormick and Lauren Ammerman knew early on that their time spent as research partners inside a lab at Dallas' Southern Methodist University would be focused on unlocking the secrets of Alzeihmer's disease.

Two of Ammerman's grandparents suffered through the disease. So did McCormick's grandmother.

"It was pretty difficult for me because I had lived with her my entire life, so it came as a human curiosity that kept pulling on a thread," McCormick said.

That curiosity played out in the lab and on an SMU super computer where the two looked into whether a "transporter protein" in the brain was capable of transporting away the protein associated with Alziehmer's disease -- the amyloid beta protein.

"I had seen through background research that there's some evidence that people who have deficiencies in this protein, that Alzheimer's can happen faster," McCormick said.

Alejandra Canales with the Dallas Morning News joins NBC 5 to discuss how a new study from Southern Methodist University is showing positive results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

With McCormick using models on the supercomputer and Ammerman conduting lab experiments, the two made the discovery for which they were hoping.

In the simplest terms, the "good" protein was capable of clearing out the "bad" one.

Their findings are now published for other scientists to build on and could be a stepping stone to future treatments.

"What will be super exciting for both of us will be watching other researchers take that information and run with it and do amazing things with it," Ammerman said.

Their discovery wasn't the only thing born inside the lab.

The two are engaged and getting married this fall.

Their love story derived from a desire to help fight a disease that took away the ones who taught them to love.

"They have been so impactful in shaping who we've become," Ammerman said of her grandparents. "We carry them with us."

Both are now researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Their wedding venue is very fitting one. It's the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

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