Brain and Body

12-Year-Old Science Prodigy Calculates How to Prevent Allergies Altogether

October 13, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

She’s outdoing Benadryl and Claritin by defeating allergies before they even start.

The spirit of science is alive among the world’s genius youth, including sixth-grader, Iris Gupta. She’s one of the 10 finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, working to change the way we deal with allergies by preventing them before they even happen.

The challenge boasts some of the most intelligent and innovative young scientists in grades 5 to 8 across the US. Other finalists are taking on projects like reducing CO2 emissions from cargo ships and using untapped energy from ocean currents to provide a stable power source and fresh water to developing countries. While all of the youngsters are exploring the world of science in different ways, Gupta’s work focuses on nanoparticles.

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Medicines like Benadryl and Claritin work by inhibiting “histamines,” the compounds our bodies release in response to an allergen, but these methods only treat allergy symptoms once they’ve already begun. Gupta wanted to discover if there was a way to avoid the entire ordeal of allergies.

Her work took off after looking into gold nanoparticles, which can block allergens from binding to the body’s “Immunoglobulin E” (IgE) antibodies, crucial particles in the blood responsible for defending the body from allergens. But before she could research her idea any further, she had to determine which nanoparticle size matched up best with IgE.

Gupta used a mathematical approach to estimate the most effective nanoparticle size, and discovered that 20-nanometer nanoparticles are the best for the job since they build the most complex formations. She explains in her video that 20-nanometer nanoparticles best prevent the allergens from binding with the IgE antibodies.

The nanoparticles could be injected or inhaled at the beginning of allergy season, equipping people to fight off the allergens floating around the air that usually provoke sneezing attacks, itchy eyes, and inflammation. It also doesn’t hurt that nanoparticles are relatively inexpensive.

With more young geniuses like Gupta, we can sleep at night assured that the future will be brighter and easier to breathe. Check out her video presentation above to learn more about Gupta’s research.

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