Nicole Munne’s project, “Development of an In Vitro Human Liver Model for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” sounds like a peer-reviewed article in The New England Journal of Medicine.
But it’s also personal for the 18-year-old senior from Peters Township High School.
“I had an uncle pass away due to obesity related issues,” Munne says. “That got me interested in working with the more neglected diseases that are considered self-inflicted.”
Munne created a drug screening model that quickly and efficiently identifies drug treatments for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Using 24 wells, each containing “essentially, a tiny liver,” Munne added various stressors to induce the disease. She then added drugs to see if the diseases were reversed.
The model is so effective that it’s currently used at the University of Pittsburgh’s Drug Discovery Institute. Munne plans to study chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall.
And the final winner: At Laina Llano Jorge’s high school in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico, there is still no electricity. The situation is made worse by mosquitos that breed in residual pools of water that remain eight months after Hurricane Maria.
With medical supplies scarce, Llano Jorge, a senior, decided to try to combat the infestation with indigenous resources.
“That’s when I came in with a natural solution to eradicate the mosquito larvae from the roots,” she explained.
The Mosquito Whisperer is made of extracts from the leaves of neem, chaya, moringa, mint, soursop and lemon. Llano Jorge applied the mixture to mosquito larvae colonies she trapped.
“In the first test, it worked on 92 percent of the population under study,” Llano Jorge said. “In the second test, it eliminated 100 percent of the population.”
Llano Jorge, 18, plans to copyright the solution before attending the University of Puerto Rico this fall, where she plans to study medicine.