For 7-year-old Paul David Coleman, the backyard pond was a source of endless fascination — and ultimately would be the place that ushered him into the world of science and single-cell research.
“There was a pond in the woods back of the house where my parents had a summer place in Connecticut. I would catch tadpoles and dissect frogs to see how they were inside,” he says. Today, at age 86, with a PhD in physiology and psychology from the University of Rochester and a National Institutes of Health fellowship from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Coleman hasn’t lost his fascination with slippery, slimy, squishy objects.
As senior scientist and director of the L.J. Roberts Center for Alzheimer’s Research at Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona, Coleman has seen his backyard grow into a much bigger pond. The institute houses the world’s premier bank of human brains, which are harvested at high-speed precision from the 50 miles surrounding the center, where the median age is 75.
Rows of heavily monitored freezers line the walls of the research institute, packed with Tupperware containers by the thousands that store high-quality brain tissue. These containers hold out a mighty hope that scientists will soon have the answers to diagnose and treat one of humanity’s most dark and elusive diseases — Alzheimer’s.