A 16-year-old high school student from New York won an award and a cash prize for her research studying the brain tissues of people who died by suicide in the hopes that it could one day be used for prevention.
The award recipient: Natasha Kulviwat, a high school student from Jericho High School in New York, was among the recipients of one of the awards given at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Dallas on May 19.
Kulviwat bagged one of the event’s top prizes for her research titled “BMED028 – Neurobiology of Suicide: Claudin-5 Is a Biomarker.” She received the Gordon E. Moore Award for Positive Outcomes for Future Generations Award, which also came with a $50,000 cash prize.
What the research was about: Kulviwat studied the biomarkers of suicide in the brains of deceased donated by their next of kin for the study. The high school student discovered that the 10 bodies of those who had died by suicide had higher numbers of inflammatory cytokines compared to the control group of 10 others who died from other causes.
The breakthrough: Although cytokines inflammation is part of the immune system’s normal process when pathogens are involved, it could still trigger even without the threats, such as during chronic stress.
The research suggested that too much inflammation could affect the brain protein claudin-5, which is typically found in the blood-brain barrier cells that help regulate what passes into the brain cells from the blood.
What the future holds: Kulviwat said she wants to further research interactions between anti-inflammatories and claudin-5 in animal models, which could hopefully result in insights in the future to develop alternative treatments and lower suicide risks.