ARMONK, N.Y. -- When it came to her science research project, Byram Hills High School student Elizabeth Wellington looked at something that hit very close to home.
Wellington recently received the Acorda Scientific Excellence Award for her research paper and scientific work on the genetic mutations that cause Cystic Fibrosis.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is caused by mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. In people with cystic fibrosis, chloride transport through the apical cell membrane is impaired, causing thick mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other organs, resulting in life-threatening lung infections.
Wellington was motivated to study the project after her battles with pneumonia. Wellington has suffered from pneumonia nine times in her life, resulting in a buildup of scar tissue in her lungs.
This makes it difficult for Wellington to breathe and made her want to learn more about cystic fibrosis and to research the effects of implanting conditionally reprogrammed cells into the lungs of a cystic fibrosis patient to decrease mucus buildup. Wellington spent 3.5 years researching her project.
"My project will bring new light and information to the Cystic Fibrosis cell therapy research community," Wellington said. "Cystic Fibrosis has been untreatable for over twenty years and this study may help fix this."
Wellington, who wants to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon, spent five weeks at a Cystic Fibrosis research center in North Carolina.
"I have always loved biology and biochemistry since I find the inner-workings of the human body to be fascinating," Wellington said. "I know it will give me great satisfaction to have made a dramatic improvement in someone’s life."