High School Students “Wow” NAVS Judges at Intel ISEF
Humane science projects are the big winner in 2014
A new method for halting the spread of breast cancer. A fresh approach to pain control using human cells. A new way to diagnose and treat the most common type of canine cancer. These remarkable achievements were all accomplished without harming a single animal!
These innovative—and potentially groundbreaking—scientific initiatives came not from the nation’s top research laboratories, but from the minds of high school students whose work was on display at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF).
Each year, the National Anti-Vivisection Society has the unique honor of awarding the annual Humane Science Award at Intel ISEF, which draws more than 1,700 young scientists--selected from 435 affiliate fairs in more than 70 countries, making it the largest international pre-college science competition in the world. NAVS is the only animal advocacy organization allowed to present an award at this prestigious event. This year’s awards were presented at Intel ISEF on Thursday, May 15 in Los Angeles.
NAVS established the Humane Science Award in 2001 to recognize projects that have the potential to reduce or replace animal use in research into human health issues, or further our understanding of animal behavior or discover solutions to animal health problems without harming animals. In giving this award, NAVS has also provided an important incentive to dozens of young scientists to continue their work without harming animals.
Over the past 13 years, NAVS’ encouragement of these young scientists has been amply rewarded by their enthusiasm and appreciation for the recognition they receive. This year was no exception. NAVS judges—including NAVS Executive Director Peggy Cunniff, Director of Science Programs Dr. Pam Osenkowski, Science Advisor Dr. Gene Elmore, and Director of Legal and Legislative Programs, Marcia Kramer —interviewed students with projects in the categories of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine and Health, looking for projects on the cutting edge of science which demonstrate the advantages of conducting research that does not rely on an animal model.
This year’s winners are:
In Cellular and Molecular Biology—Sara Sakowitz “A Novel Approach for Metastatic Breast Cancer Therapy” (First Prize)
In Cellular and Molecular Biology—Elizabeth Sobolik “Generating iPSCs from Human Adipocytes for Differentiation into Nociceptive Neurons” (Second Prize)
In Medicine and Health, Golda Shaw “Development of a Novel Blood-Based Diagnosis for Canine Lymphosarcoma” (Third Prize)
Sara’s research focused on characterizing the effect of an EZH2 inhibitor on breast cancer metastasis. EZH2 is an enzyme that silences the expression of genes, including those whose products would normally halt cell growth and tumor formation. Sara investigated what would happen if EZH2 was inhibited using an in vitro approach with a number of aggressive human breast cancer cell lines to study the effect of an EZH2 inhibitor. She discovered that this treatment dramatically reduced cancer cells’ ability to migrate, invade and grow and she carefully studied the mechanism behind these significant effects. Sara’s work sets the foundation for a possible exciting and new therapeutic option for breast cancer.
Elizabeth’s project centered on the development of an in vitro model of specialized neurons called nociceptors. Nociceptors have an important role in the body because they function as sensors of the pain pathway. Current research in this area relies heavily on animal models, and Elizabeth recognized an important need to develop a human-relevant model. She generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from cells obtained from human fat, and then followed an intricate protocol to differentiate the iPSCs into nociceptors. She was able to develop an important human-relevant model that can facilitate pain research and serve as a useful tool for drug screening and disease modeling.
Golda’s project was geared toward finding an effective way to diagnose and guide treatment of canine lymphosarcoma. Lymphosarcoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs and is caused by the overgrowth of lymphocytes, cells of the immune system. Golda recognized that in cancer cells, a protein named BIN1 contains an extra region not seen in normal cells. She developed a tool which capitalizes on this important difference to capture BIN1+13 circulating in the blood. She examined blood samples from healthy dogs and those with lymphosarcoma, pre- and post-chemotherapy treatment. Her assay detected high levels of BIN1+13 in dogs with lymphosarcoma and significantly lower levels of the protein in normal dogs and those that were treated with chemotherapy, which indicates that BIN1+13 is a useful biomarker to diagnose and guide treatment of canine lymphosarcoma.
Winners will receive a cash prize ($5,000 for first prize, $2,000 for second prize and $1,000 for third prize).
NAVS congratulates all the participants in this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and especially those students whose projects achieved a high standard for excellence in the furthering of humane science.