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Intel ISEF 2013 Finalist Profile

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Indicting Alzheimer's: Novel Methods of Preventing Glial Scarring through the Downregulation of Cerebral Vimentin and Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein

Tejas Dharmaraj
Manav Sevak

Chandler High School, Chandler, AZ

Astrocytes, a class of glial cells in the brain, contain two major intermediary filaments (IF): glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and vimentin (VIM). In the event of neurotrauma, a neurochemical cascade is initiated leading to the upregulation of these two proteins. The researchers conducted an investigation to determine the impact of the chemical Withaferin A (WFA), an extract of Withania somnifera, on the production of GFAP and VIM. With additional research indicating that the downregulation of GFAP and VIM could prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Alexander’s, it was apparent to the researchers that the application of WFA to a model of astrogliosis could prove instrumental in providing a preventative measure against such diseases. A controlled experiment was then conducted to determine the impact of WFA on the recovery and health of astrocytes after mechanically induced trauma. Experimentation confirms that the neurochemical cascade can be regulated by the use of WFA and that the use of WFA greatly assists in post-trauma recovery of astrocytes and downregulates GFAP and VIM. This means that glial scarring and acute effects such as paralysis and some impaired cognitive function can be prevented but further the predisposition to neurodegenerative conditions is lessened. Based on the research collected, it was postulated that Withaferin A is a potentially viable treatment for astrogliosis caused by trauma to human hippocampal and frontal lobe astrocytomas. Potential applications of this research include an intravitreal or automatic treatment for stroke and trauma patients.

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