Thursday 26 May 2016

Malunggay anti-tumor research!

Cebu lass wins award at Intel science fair

Arianwen Rollan, 17, won an award for her research on the anti-tumor properties of malunggay.
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA - Arianwen Rollan, a 17-year old student of Cebu City National High School, has won the First Award presented by the Qatar Foundation for Research and Development in Medical Science at the recently concluded Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Rollan was honored for her research on the anti-tumor properties of malunggay (moringa) seeds.

A global high school science research competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair drew some 1,700 participants from over 77 countries this May.

The top Intel honor went to Han Jie Wang, 18, from Canada, for developing microbial fuel cells that "more efficiently convert organic waste into electricity," according to a press release from Intel.

Wang received the first place Gordon E. Moore Award and a $75,000 prize money for his work.

"Intel sees the potential in aspiring young people who have an unquenchable curiosity in the things around them. We are proud that this curiosity resulted in Arianwen's research being recognized in this year's ISEF among other projects from young innovators around the world," said Intel Philippines Country Manager Calum Chisholm.

Rollan was one of eight students from the Philippines who submitted their work. Aside from the award, she also received $1,000 for her study.

"What inspired me to conduct this study was that a lot of people die of cancer. One of those was my grandmother, and my sister was also diagnosed with a tumor," the 17-year-old student told InterAksyon in an interview conducted via e-mail.

She was also exposed to the experience of cancer patients because her mother was a doctor, and she would see how frail they became because of complications from chemotherapy.

That prompted Rollan to seek a less harmful and more inexpensive alternative.

In this interview, she recounts her experience in the competition, and reveals her plans in connection with her award-winning research. Tell us about yourself.

Rollan: I'm Arian, I'm 17, and I'm just very happy that I have been given this opportunity to represent my country in this very prestigious competition.

Have you always been interested in science and research?

Yes. Also, I attend a science high school, so we have extra subjects. For example, not all other schools have courses or subjects on research, or they don't really underscore research that much. In our school, research is very important. That is one thing that made me more inclined towards science and research.

What do you plan to take up in college?

Right now, since we have the K-to-12, my strand is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). I am not really sure about what specific field I'm going to pursue, but right now, I'm thinking of taking up biology as a steppingstone to medical studies. [I want to] be an OB-Gyn and also undertake further research on in-vitro fertilization. That's what I'm thinking of right now, but I still think this could change.

What are your hobbies?

I love reading and watching movies. I also like participating in programs inclined toward journalism, leadership and citizenship, and youth development programs. I also love traveling and building relationships with people from other cultures. I have experienced an international exchange program in Thailand. I met a grand winner there in their school, so I thought it was a sign. I was also able to meet the students who worked on that project. I really love traveling and communicating with people who are different from me.

How did you come up with the idea of doing research on malunggay?

What inspired me to conduct this study was that there have been a lot of people that died because of cancer. Personally, that's one thing that really pushed me to pursue my project. Second, is that I have observed many people who could not afford the medications needed, because these are very expensive. Plus, only a few of these cancer medicines have minimal side effects. When you take these medicines, they may make you better, but the side effects are also very bad. This is why I thought of a plant that is locally and widely available – the malunggay seed – to test it for its anti tumor potential. My sister was the one who started this [study]. She started it with another assay and her model was the sea urchin. At that point, she was still investigating the leaves, the bark and the seed. She was observing the effect of the extract on the mitotic activity of the sea urchin's cells. She found out that the seeds had the best effect amongst the three, which is why I proceeded to another study and the model I used was the chick embryo. It's a higher class of organism, and it's also used to test if a substance is pro or anti angiogenic [the physiological process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing ones].

What did you find out through your research?

My project is basically about preventing the growth of a tumor by impeding or stopping the development of the cancer blood vessels. So, in this study, I used Moringa olefeira seeds. Based on my results, using the Chorioallantoic Membrane Assay, the seeds did manifest anti tumor activity. Further studies can probably validate whether this could be an organic anti tumor agent.

What will happen to your research? Has anyone expressed the intention to develop your idea?

Since my project is still preliminary, I think that there are still other measures and other tasks that could be taken before it could be used commercially. The next step for my study would probably be testing it more extensively. I know that there is a potential for it, based on my preliminary results. I know that I will continue unraveling the potential of Moringa olefeira seed as an anti-tumor agent. Probably, I will use the cash I received toward that effort. I think that could also be a reason why they gave the cash prize to us. One of the judges asked about who funded my research. When I told her that I was the one who personally funded for my research, she was shocked. So I think that's one of the purposes of giving out the awards.

What was the experience like, joining the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair?

My experience in the competition cannot be described by words alone, because in there I was able to meet so many people with so much potential. It's just overwhelming, because it was a gathering of young scientists who just want to make the world better by helping innovate and discover new things. Like, for example, to cure cancer or build software. It was not only about the competition, it was also about building bonds with other young people from around the world. The activities that ISEF prepared for us were really fit for the occasion, like the pin exchange and the student mixer where you can fit in easily because there were a lot of portions in it. Also, in the awarding, I was really amazed because even though it was a competition, I was really happy to see everyone appreciating the winners. You cannot see that they were mad or sad about anything. Even when the top three winners were announced, everyone was in standing ovation. The point of view of the people there was that we were all lucky to be a part of the 2016 Intel ISEF. For us, we already won. Those special awards, the grand award that was given were just like bonuses for us.

What did the competition teach you?

I learned a lot from my experience. Before, I didn't focus as much on details. For me, the small details weren't important. But because of my exposure to research, I realized that details, note-taking and documenting your project are all very important. The experience also taught me that, in life, I should never give up. In research, your project may or may not work. There is a risk because you are investing so much time, money and effort. So, I also learned that taking risks is important. Sometimes the risk you take may not yield good outcomes, but at least even these are lessons.

What advice would you give fellow high school students who want to join the competition?

My number one advice would be to believe in yourself. Because once you believe in yourself, anything can happen. When you have that, you will have confidence. You will not think about the award, the competition, the projects of the people around you, but you will just be there for yourself, your family and your country.

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