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Two Sleepy Hollow High School Students Win Science Excellence Award

Elizabeth Silver's research determined if the length of a patient’s telomeres, the protective caps at the end of DNA strands, could be identified as a biomarker for heart failure.
Elizabeth Silver's research determined if the length of a patient’s telomeres, the protective caps at the end of DNA strands, could be identified as a biomarker for heart failure. Photo Credit: Contributed
Heather Brown researched ischemic strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative phenomena.
Heather Brown researched ischemic strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative phenomena. Photo Credit: Contributed

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- Two Sleepy Hollow High School students recently received Acorda Scientific Excellence Awards for their individual research projects and were featured on AM 1230 WFAS, where they each spoke about their research.

Elizabeth Silver wanted to discover more about how the heart works on a cellular level after shadowing a cardiologist and learning about heart failures and transplants. For her research project, Silver set out to determine if the length of a patient’s telomeres, the protective caps at the end of DNA strands, could be identified as a biomarker for heart failure.

Silver studied different blood samples collected from 35 patients one year apart and recorded the fluctuations that occurred in each patient’s telomere length during that year with assistance from a mentor at the Hartford Hospital Outpatient Infusion Center.

Silver found that telomere length was significantly shorter in heart failure patients, and that patients who improved with treatment did not experience a decrease in telomere length, suggesting that this measurement could potentially be used as a biomarker for progressive heart failure.

Heather Brown has known several families that had been dramatically affected by strokes. These experiences inspired her to begin actively researching ischemic strokes, in which blood is blocked from a portion of the brain, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative phenomena.

Brown set out to determine if preconditioning the brain for ischemia could be used as a preventative measure for strokes. Brown and her mentor collected brain tissue samples from rats and exposed them to brief periods of oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD). These samples were monitored during various recovery periods before undergoing a lethal duration of OGD similar to an ischemic stroke.

Ultimately, Brown's study found that the preconditioning did not lead to less cell death during extended oxygen glucose deprivation but the data she collected will be helpful in understanding the potential of ischemic tolerance.

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