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Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Cambridge, MA

Joshua Sacher
Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research 

The transmission of an electrical signal by a neuron requires coordinated depolarization of membrane potential across the long length of the cell.  This depolarization is realized by voltage-gated sodium ion channels: When a small region of a neuron depolarizes, the voltage-gated ion channel opens, allowing positively-charged sodium ions to flow into the neuron, which depolarize other parts of the cell.  Sometimes, these voltage-gated sodium channels do not work properly. They are either overactive (letting in too much sodium), or underactive (not letting enough sodium in).  Both of these types of mutants can lead to diseases such as epilepsy. Prachee’s project involved applying the principles of organic chemistry to synthesize novel molecular compounds to act as inhibitors for a particular voltage-gated sodium channel called NaV1.2.  Prachee obtained good yields for most of the compounds synthesized.  Additionally, a molecular simulation suggests that Prachee’s compounds will bind to and inhibit NaV1.2, restoring functionality to channels that are hypo- or hyperactive.

BSSP gave Prachee clarity on what research was all about: “It gave me a good insight of how it feels to work in a lab and it helped me discover how much I like the work.”  Of course, research isn’t just all about labwork. When asked about her favorite part of the Broad Institute, Prachee answered, “I really liked the social events and socializing with people.”