SME student publishes biomedical research in scientific journal

Stuti Dalal
Stuti Dalal, an SME senior, was published for her biomedical research this past summer. At 16, she was the youngest contributor.

After years of conducting biomedical research and competing nationally for her work, a 17-year-old Shawnee Mission East student has been published in a scientific journal.

Stuti Dalal was the youngest contributor on a team of six when their research was published in the scientific journal Experimental Eye Research this past spring. She was 16 at the time.

“I’ve always had a great time with research, and I love it so much,” Dalal said.

The roots of her specific contributions to the paper date back a few years, just before she started high school, when Dalal began researching at KU Medical Center, specifically to observe the effect of local anesthetics on chronic nerve pain.

Since then, she picked up her research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her research there has primarily focused on the effects of iron on specific proteins that are involved in neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The paper to which she contributed fits into this larger body of research, but it specifically focused on the ocular symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases and how specific proteins involved in these diseases impact the uptake and outflux of iron in the eye.

Stuti Dala
Dalal has competed in multiple competitions, including at the Greater Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair. Photo submitted by Stuti Dalal

“Alzheimer’s is known for having memory loss and things like that, but there are also other symptoms like retinal changes and the degeneration of the eye, and it’s not really researched well,” Dalal said. “Iron is such an important element of the body when it’s well balance, but in these diseases, it gets really disrupted, and it’s not really known why or how.”

Her specific portion of the research discovered the role of prion protein in specific parts of the eye. She discovered that those proteins actually help with iron uptake and output.

“It’s known that in these neurodegenerative diseases, prion protein stops its function and will aggregate, and that’s what causes the degeneration of neurons, leading to these ocular symptoms,” Dalal said. “In the healthy body, it’s unknown what this protein does normally, so it’s important for us to figure out what it does normally for us to figure out what goes wrong during these neurodegenerative diseases.”

Dalal has been interested and increasingly passionate about science and biomedical-focused research, competing and placing in multiple competitions, including first place at national competition and qualifying for international competition. Her roots begin she conducted cancer research at Shawnee Mission West High School’s biotechnology center, when she was 13 and too young to conduct research in a real lab. Her focus at the time was studying the effects of turmeric on ultraviolet-induced cancer cells.

Dalal has presented her current research at different levels, including in Kansas City and at international competition.

“This publication adds to a growing resume of achievements for Dalal, who has been honored for her research at the school, state district, tri-state, national and international level, so congratulations to her,” said Mike Fulton, superintendent of Shawnee Mission School District, at the school board’s Sept. 12 meeting.

Dalal said she hopes to continue her biomedical research in college.