2 St. Anthony’s Students Win Regional Toshiba Competition

Two young St. Anthony’s students with plans for science careers have been named regional winners in the Toshiba ExploraVision competition.

Their project, “Myelin Menders” involves developing nanotechnology to combat the symptoms of such movement disorders as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

Vincent Chen, 14, and Delaney Bartling, 15, both freshmen, both remarkably self-possessed, were participating in the school’s research program when they paired up for a  project back in the fall. Delaney, who has cerebral palsy, and Vincent came up with their idea and having been developing it ever since. Their project targets the repair of meylin, a sheath around nerve cells; when the sheath is damaged, the nerves no longer function correctly and leads to dysfunction.Their proposal is to send nanorobots through the blood stream to repair the damaged myelin and relieve symptoms of the disorder,  such as pain and tight muscles.

Paul Paino, research director for the school said, “Cerebral palsy  is very complicated, so they worked backwards from their knowledge of biology. They knew that the problem was that the nerve cells in her limbs are losing their protective covering. Her body’s immune system is attacking it for some unknown reason– maybe genetic, environmental and that’s about it.  It would be very hard to figure out how to make the source of the disease go away. So they said what we can do is try to fix the damaged nerve cells in the muscles. They focused on that.”

The pair chose nanotechnology, he said  “We’ll devise a system of nanorobots that swim around in the bloodstream, We’ll figure out a way to help them find the damaged neurons, which they did through this low, medium and high levels of electrical impulses. And the little nanorobots, once they identified where they had to go, would be guided with magnetic fields.”

“We have to find a way to make this feasible. It sounds like science fiction but it realy is all possible,” joking that an infusion of a billion dollars or so would put the technology into practice.

Looking ahead, Delaney is thinking about a career in a field such as pediatric neurology. “I always wanted to go into something involving helping people, treating kids for what I have. That always seemed like the best fit.”

In her spare time, she participates in winter track and in golf.

Vincent said he plans to be a doctor of medicine or otherwise remain in science as a career. “I really wanted to treat the untreatable, using new technologies,” he said.  The school’s science program appealed to him. He also participates in junior varsity tennis.

As part of their project for the Toshiba competition, they created models of nanorobots and 3-d models. For the Toshiba competition, they also have to create a website to explain their project.

Toshiba representatives went to St. Anthony’s Wednesday to meet the students and present them with certificates  for their achievements.

There are six regions in the country; the two students are waiting to hear whether they’ll be one of the two teams chosen to head to Washington DC in May to compete for the top spot. This region covers schools throughout the Northeast.

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