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Local ninth grade students make medical field advancements

Posted at 7:58 PM, Feb 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 11:58:51-05

BOISE — It's not every day you hear of high school students getting ahead in the medical field, but two Treasure Valley girls are doing just that.

Melina Mohammadi and Alekya Tanikella are ninth graders at Treasure Valley Math and Science Center in Boise, and both of them are working with professors from Boise State University to conduct research in the medical field--research that is getting attention.

From developing viruses to help combat the antibiotic resistance epidemic: "I've been working with bacteriophages, which are viruses that kill bacteria, and they're very specialized," said Melinda.

To modifying cartilage to help knock out a gene in a persons DNA: "It could help with mineralization problems like rickets and osteodystrophy, where you have poor mineralization," said Alekya.

These two friends are getting a jump start on their future careers with the help of professors and fellows at Boise State.

Alekya wants to be a doctor, and Melina is considering going on to work with microbacteria.

Melina's research began three months ago, and in that short time, she dug up a never before discovered virus. "We took a soil sample from a compost bin with worms in it," said Melina.

Then she began isolating the phage. "Our antibodies aren't working as well against bacteria as they used to, so phages are pretty much like modern medicine--modern modern medicine. They're the next generation," said Melina.

Then she uncovered a virus that kills bacteria without people developing a resistance.

Alekya's research began four years ago. "I'm trying to modify cartilage using CRISPR to knock out a gene and see how that affects Zebra Fish," said Alekya.

CRISPR edits the gene using a scissor-like function, then allows Alekya to create a new mutation. "Most people have to go through a lot of schooling and a lot of experience to do stuff like this, but I get to do it without having to go to medical school," said Alekya.

Treasure Valley Math and Science Center is a public school in the Independent School District of Boise City, open to public, private, and home schooled students who are capable of performing at an accelerated 7th through 12th grade academic level, regardless of their age.