Aaron Huang, a student at Pleasantville High School, is the latest winner of the Acorda Award that recognizes student scientists.
Huang said he was was motivated to begin his research because of the idea of being able to treat some currently untreatable neurological diseases. His goal is to become a medical researcher
Here’s his explanation of his project in “layman’s terms:” For drugs to effectively combat neurological diseases, there has to be a way to get them into brain cells. A possible solution is using cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs). In our experiment, we used the TAT CPP because of its well-characterized behavior and to determine TAT’s capabilities as a CPP. After many trials, we saw more nanoparticles of the lower concentration trial in the cells than those of the higher concentration trial. These results indicate an optimal concentration for the TAT CPP. This increases our understanding of TAT’s penetration mechanism and allows us to proceed in our search for novel CPPs.”
Here’s a more technical description of his project:
“The problem of crossing the membrane of a brain endothelial cell to deliver therapeutic cargo has been present in the medical community for some time. Ever since the discovery of CPPs, there have been studies on various cell PPCs like TAT. In our experiment we used TAT, a well-characterized CPP, to develop novel CPPs that will have desired phenotypes like cell specificity and stability. Endothelial cell monolayers (bEnd.3) were exposed to the TAT peptide, which was attached to functionalized nanoparticles to determine if TAT can truly cross the cell membrane and to provide a greater understanding in TAT’s penetration mechanisms. After repeating the experiment through many trials, it was found that there was an increased amount of permeation found in the 5 molar % TAT group when compared to the other groups. With this increased level of permeation, we can see that there is a concentration at which TAT is most efficient due to the differing levels of permeation exhibited by the 5 and 12 molar % TAT groups. Through this observation and increased understanding, we can continue with our research in finding novel CPPs with the help of the TAT peptide.”