It all started back in the Dominican Republic, right in the capital, Santo Domingo. Where tragedy and distress ruled my days, as I saw my Grandmother, Lucia, deteriorate due to Alzheimer’s disease. My family always said that “Family is the only one that in your worst times will open the door and welcome you without hesitation, always keep that in mind Omar”, but at the age of 12, I already knew a little bit of what was happening to Lucia. She would say some things that didn’t make sense, but her food was always the best. Until the day she wasn’t her anymore, Alzheimer’s is a retrograde amnesia disease meaning that those that have it will develop memory loss that only gets worse with time, and that was the hardest thing for me, seeing how she was slowly forgetting about the bond we had, the laughs we shared, the talks… Everything was gone, and my existence disappear from her memories, leaving me with a great pain that strongly palpates to this day in my chest.
The doctors simply said -There was no cure and we could only spend time with her until she passes away- feeling hopeless at the time I decided to dedicate my life to one goal and one goal only, finding the cure for Alzheimer’s. I got made bullied in school, and even professors said that I wasn’t smart enough and should let someone else do the work, I keep putting myself to the limit, studying hard every day as one day doing an investigation found out that the path for me to find said cure was doing a major in neuroscience, which at the time was not available in any university in the Dominican Republic, that just impulse me to look into other programs, and found around 40 full-ride scholarships, I applied to every single one, making tons of essays telling my story and desires, got to take a placement test for 3 of them. Fortunately passed all of them but decided to go to the University of Ketchup, in the United States for two main reasons being in the United States would allow me to meet other great minds with the same goal of stopping Alzheimer, the other one was that I always wanted to visit a place that was called Keptchup University.
Before getting on the plane, I said my farewell to the family with crying eyes, as I didn’t know how long or how things were going to turn out. My mom, Britney said, “This is what you always wanted, go champion!”. It was hard leaving them behind but to make my dreams come true it had to be done. Thankful the full-ride scholarship gave me a place to sleep, some money for personal expenses, and most importantly access to the biggest neuroscience library in the world, where I spend most of my time after classes trying to find information about my goal.
But studying only neuroscience was not enough as I could understand what was going wrong in the brain, but not how to fix it, so one day in my psychology class 202 pathopsycho, the professor that I became the closest to. He wanted me to participate in research with another student named Cleo, the project was about “nanotechnology and how patients with ALS gain back mobility after being implanted with this chip on the ventral root”
Cleo and I became close as we both became interested in each other majors she wanted to learn more about the pathophysiology of the human brain and I wanted to get into how to use nanotechnology as a way to cure Alzheimer’s, and well Cleo convinced me to double major in neuroscience and nanotechnology.
In my Junior year with a couple of close friends, we made a plan and some blueprints to show to the Upper Chair People, they had the power to give us funds to work and keep making investigations under Keptchup University, after trial and error we got a yes, happiest day of my life, we went and party all week before starting the work session.
Party time was officially done and in the second week of November we started to work with rats, the original plan was made by Cleo, she came up with this helmet, we will put the helmet on the rats that had Alzheimer’s and by sending positive ions we would stop the progression of cell death, which was successful, we did stop the cells from dying with the cost of the rats… the side effects were so bad that the rats would stop breathing as for some odd reason the area of the brain that controls breathing also known as the brain stem would completely shut down after 76 hours on the dot.
The group felt horrible, making that helmet took us 7 months and we were back to zero, we knew this was not going to be an easy task but when you see all the progress you once made go to waste, that discomfort is something none of us have ever experienced, we had other projects and they affected the brain differently but none was nearly as effective as Cleo’s helmet. After a lot, and when I say a lot of research we decided that maybe the solution could be inside the brain, and we found a new protein seen in the rats called CATS, what we did not know at the time is that cats were the key element all this time.
It was December, and I was doing the usual overtime research and was feeling extra sad as Christmas was coming up, my mom was trying to face time to know if I would go back home at least to spend Christmas back home, I rejected the call knowing that my answer would make her sad, after 20-30 minutes of taking notes on this CATS protein, I passed out and had a dream where I saw Lucia, my grandma, she simply said look deeper in the CATS!
After making a prototype for Grandma or grandmother, G-o-g to make it easier, this nanotech acts as a cell, but its only function is to get in neurons and inject the CATS in them, we felt so secure about this that we tried in bigger animals, a monkey named mono, mono was a late stage of Alzheimer and the results were just impressive, this is where boring details come.
After the Original Neuron gets infected with the G-o-g, this will go to the nucleus and become one with it allowing G-o-g to act as mitochondria, and multiply rapidly, after 2 weeks, the nanotech travel through the connections, this allows for a smooth and rapid spread of G-o-g, the CATS protein enables the neuron to ignore the death neurons, what usually happens when a neuron dies it blocks all neurons, think of driving, a neuron is a one-way street, but with CATS, we allow the neurons to become a two, three up to 10-way street! Indicating that even though those dead neurons are there, neurons can still function generally by connection with another neuron, stopping the loss of memory.
Mono after 6 months was able to function from 40% of memory capacity back to 87%, this was good but not enough, we wanted to get a 100% but the only way we could do that was by regenerating those dead neurons, the solution was simple we just had to do a change in G-o-g to version 1.2, this version can be taken as a pill, it will make an opening in the blood-brain barrier, allowing the immune system to come and take out the dead cells, while G-o-g acts as the boss marking what cells are supposed to go, the immune system can make mistakes so to reduce it, G-o-g makes those dead cells have a certain smell that only immune cells can sense, so the risk of damaging good neurons goes so low as 3%.
January 5, 2033, we made it, the cure for Alzheimer’s is now being taken by people all around the world, and we’re doing our best to keep the prices down, the University of Keptchup wanted to make this a patent but we refuse, as this is the hope many kids like me needed, this is a simple pill, at the age of 27, 15 years later I made the dream come true.
After all, that was done, I decided to take Cleo to meet my family in the Dominican Republic, they were so excited to see me, the research group was everywhere on every news channel, and got a lot of thank you letters. Cleo and I decided to take a break from all the research and live a normal life for a while, we got married and had you guys, and that’s how your mom and dad back in our young days cured one of the uncurable diseases, and who knows maybe one of you can find the next cure or the best way to do it.
“It all starts with hope!”
Ling, Tan Sook. “The Potential Benefits of Nanotechnology in Treating Alzheimer’s Disease.” BioMed Research International, Hindawi, 4 July 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8275379/.
TheCzech305. “🇩🇴 The Part of Dominican Republic You Don’t See!” YouTube, YouTube, 31 Jan. 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iew-CynCHo&ab_channel=Czechineffect.