Charlottesville, VA

Three research teams of high school students from Renaissance School were notified on 28 October that their peer-reviewed genetics research has been published in BioTreks Journal. 

Mercedes G (‘20), Ioannis R (‘20), Isabella R (‘19), and Alex Z (‘20) published Upregulating cytochrome P450 in Populus trichocarpa to Filter Out Trichloroethylene from Soil. Their research addressed the question: “Is it possible to genetically engineer poplars in order to upregulate the expression of cytochrome P450 to make poplar trees safely remove pollutants from groundwater through phytoremediation and metabolize the pollutants into harmless byproducts?”

Artie C (‘19), Rosalee K (‘19), and Ella S (‘21) published Neutralizing Red Tide Threats via Brevetoxin Nullification. Their research considered the concern: “Red tide algal blooms are affecting the coastal ecosystems by emitting harmful Brevetoxins that eliminate large portions of fish and shellfish populations… Brevetoxin production is theorized to be tied to PKS (polyketide synthase) clusters. Disrupting the gene that codes for the production of the PKS could therefore stop the production of the Brevetoxins.”

Lola M (‘19), Eva P (‘19), and Samiksha R (‘19) published Using Antifreeze Proteins to Develop an Alternative to Road Salts. Their research presented an idea about: “an alternative to the road salts with none of the negative effects of chloride salts. Some microorganisms produce Antifreeze Proteins (AFPs)... AFPs prevent the freezing of the bloodstream and water inside of animals and plants, respectively, living in cold environments. Isolated AFPs may be able to operate as de-icers.”

Renaissance School Synthetic Biology (genetic engineering) Faculty Anna Minutella remarked that she “love[s] that the curriculum changes every year to keep up with current research. I’m now teaching stuff that wasn’t even known when I graduated from UVA in ‘07 - that’s exciting! The kids also love that we explore the ethics of this dynamic science every year.”

Over the last two years, Synthetic Biology students at Renaissance School have read The Gene, an Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley; The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction, by Henry T Greely; and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Sloot. They are scheduled to read Editing Mankind: Humanity in the Age of CRISPR and Gene Editing, by Kevin Davies, due to be released in April of next year. 

BioTreks is the first international synthetic biology journal to be authored and reviewed by high school students. The full text of the articles, as well as more information, is available at BioTreks.org. 

Renaissance School is Central Virginia’s college preparatory high school for high ability students in the arts, sciences, and humanities. 

Contact: Bethany Farris, 434-984-1952, marketing@renaissanceschool.org