Joe Harding.

Medicinal chemist and now-adjunct professor of psychology Joe Harding was in his lab at Washington State University trying to isolate, purify, and clone the protein receptor for the hormone angiotensin II when he noticed something unusual but interesting.

Jay Wright.

It was 1991 and Harding was researching potential new options for relieving high blood pressure, but if the anomalies showing up in his lab tests meant what he thought they might, he and his research partner, fellow WSU scientist and then-professor in the Department of Psychology, Jay Wright, were on the brink of a different breakthrough.

In the years that followed, the WSU scientists discovered that a molecule associated with memory could activate a powerful growth system that can stimulate the production of new nerve cells and enable damaged nerve cells to replace connections lost during the Alzheimer’s disease process. The work coming out of their WSU lab has since shown that activating this system reversed cognitive deficits in multiple models of dementia, and, recently, the research took another major step forward.

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