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She’s 17 Years Old and Already Helping Patients. Meet the Winner Of One Of the Country’s Most Prestigious Science Fairs.

Indrani Das has been fascinated with brain injuries since her freshman year of high school, when she learned that their effects can be devastating and irreversible.

Later, her fascination evolved into a full-fledged research project. Das, now 17 and a senior at the Academy for Medical Science Technology in Hackensack, N.J., explored how brain damage occurs, examining a process called astrogliosis, which can lead to the excess production of a toxin that can damage neurons. If she and other researchers could better understand how brain damage occurs, perhaps they could figure out how to slow or reverse the process.

“My work centers on repairing the behavior of supporting cells to prevent neuron injury and death,” Das said. “It was really that shock of what it can do to a person that pushed me to work” on research involving brain injuries.

Das’s project, which explores the role of brain cells called astrocytes in the death of neurons, was awarded the top prize and $250,000 at the Regeneron Science Talent Search.