OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Thousands of Oklahomans struggle with losing precious memories from Alzheimer’s or dementia, but could hope be on the horizon?

A young scientist from Ghana wants to reverse the effects of aging, and thanks to a prestigious grant, his research is gaining momentum. 

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Victor Ansere has dedicated his four years in Oklahoma to reversing the aging process.

“If you are aging, can we delay aging so you don’t experience most of the diseases or chronic diseases associated with aging?” said Ansere. 

Ansere is the first in Oklahoma to land an NIH Pathway to Independence Award.

Launched in 2014, it is the only NIH grant program open to scientists in the U.S. on a temporary visa.

“What this unique award does is supports his research as he finishes his Ph.D. and then becomes Dr. Victor Ansere,” said Dr. Bill Freeman. 

As time progresses, the body and the brain change, sometimes causing people to develop conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

But Victor’s research is trying to understand what it is about the aging process that contributes to those diseases.

“The idea is to have what we term as optimal longevity where you live long, but you don’t spend most of your aging stage in the disease,’ said Ansere. 

According to Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, his research focuses on the brain’s primary immune cells, called microglia.

“We believe that as you age, these microglia become more reactive, ready to fight and that obesity can have the same effect,” Ansere said. “But being constantly on guard can lead to brain inflammation that can cause neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

His research uses plasma from young donors to see if it can slow aging or reverse it.

“If we can understand these processes better, we can [guide people],” said Dr. Freeman. 

It’s a foundational process that will take years to uncover. But with the help of this grant, Victor’s brain research may discover a long-sought-after fountain of youth.

“The idea is to be able to find these and make these into a translatable or a therapeutic option,” said Ansere. “Like when you have a headache, you go to the pharmacy.