Some fathers bond with their sons by playing baseball, or building a treehouse, or attempting awkwardly to have a conversation about girls.
But for scientist Paul Muchowski and his father, Joseph Muchowski, that bonding has come through working together on a brain drug.
When the younger Muchowski, an up-and-coming biologist, developed a hypothesis that a certain compound might be able to slow the damage of neurodegenerative diseases to people’s brains, he ran into a problem.
The compound could only be obtained through a big pharmaceutical company — not an industry known for sharing and openness.
Many scientists would have, at that point, had to throw in the towel. All Muchowski had to do was turn to his chemist father for help. So he asked him to help him form the compound. His father agreed, and their work relationship was launched from there.
The compound they’re working with, known as JM6, is thought to work by inhibiting a certain enzyme, causing a sequence of events that leads to a reduction in one harmful chemical and an increase in a second, helpful chemical.
The pair are working at Gladstone Institutes, an independent research group affiliated with UCSF.
The drug would be among the first to treat degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. There’s no guarantee their efforts will pay off, though they’ve proved that compound helps to prevent memory loss in mice with Alzheimer’s. It’s too early to tell whether it will produce similar results in humans.
However their research may turn out, though, the father-son team has enjoyed working together.
Joseph Muchowski told the Chron said he’s proud to work with his son:
“Many good scientists are forced to retire, and they don’t have the luxury of a son who needs help. To work with my son, that’s something very special.”