South Side High School boasts Siemens Competition finalists

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Johnson, 17, and Keady, 16, worked together at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to determine the variations in genomes that occur more or less frequently in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), malignancies that originate in bone marrow, cause overproduction in blood cells, and often lead to acute myeloid leukemia.

“There are variations in the genome, variations between people, that affects the likelihood of developing this cancer, specifically,” Johnson said.

According to the pair’s executive summary, which is a simple explanation of the research, knowing which mutations predispose toward different diseases is incredibly useful knowledge to have. A person who knows that they are predisposed to a particular type of cancer can get regular screenings and take preventative measures.

Keady, the only junior of the group, could decide to take the research further.

“Replication is always needed to ensure accuracy,” Keady said. “I could perform a similar study on a different disease. I could perform a replication study of this or I could focus on the findings we have here… or I could go in a completely new direction.”

Among Johnson’s top choices for college are Stanford University, Northwestern University and Brown University, though his interests tend to lean toward construction and engineering.

Chernack, 17, also at Stony Brook University, studied how dental pulp stem cells differentiate, how they can change, or morph, into another type of cell for different functions. Unlike embryonic stem cells, dental pulp stem cells can easily be obtained through the core of human teeth and have the potential to become a number of different types of cells, including osteoblasts, or bone cells.

For his research, Chernack put the stem cells in the correct environment for osteoblast differentiation, but also tested how differentiation could be inhibited in order to determine the role of the ROCKII kinase, an enzyme, in the differentiation process. Differentiation was initially disrupted, Chernack said, when an inhibitor blocked the function of the Kinase, but the delay didn’t last.
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