This Wilmington Charter 11th grader is helping spearhead cell regeneration research - Delaware


May 8, 2015 12:15 pm

This Wilmington Charter 11th grader is helping spearhead cell regeneration research

Francisco Hernandez, a BioGENEius award winner, started the project last summer.

A lab mouse.

(Photo by Flickr user Mycroyance, used under a Creative Commons license)

Francisco Hernandez isn’t your typical high school student.

The Charter School of Wilmington 11th grader has been researching how to help heal cells that have been damaged by an overload of oxygen. He’s doing it by mutating a protein called Peroxiredoxin 6.

“We put mice in a chamber, bombarded it with oxygen and it died in a couple minutes,” Hernandez said. “But a lot of that protein helped it survive longer.”

It all began last summer when Hernandez was interning at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where a team was researching how certain mutations to the protein played a role in the body.

“We worked on that and basically were able to manipulate a common laboratory technique,” he said. “It’s a very low-cost and effective method of detecting mutations in mice genomes.”

Except one thing — one week into the research, Hernandez’s daily supervisor got sick. He was out the rest of the summer.

“Three days before I ended the program, we heard he passed away,” Hernandez said. “It was so shockingly devastating.”

That means Hernandez and his team, for the most part, did this summer-long research project based on one week’s worth of instruction.

So what’s the real-world application for this research?

“If we can detect the mutations we were implementing into the mouse’s genome, we can then do further experimentation with that protein,” he said. “That would apply to Alzheimer’s, the wound healing process and even the germination of plants.”

However, oddly enough, the protein can trigger some processes that damage cells as well.

Hernandez’s year-long research has just begun to pay off. He was one of three award winners in last month’s Delaware BioGENEius Challenge — a statewide competition for high school students making waves in biotechnology research.

Francisco Hernandez (left) and other BioGENEius finalists with Gov. Jack Markell. (Photo by Kathy Atkinson)

Hernandez was handpicked for the competition by a group of judges who scouted him out at his high school science fair.


“They invited me to be one of their finalists at their awards ceremony,” he said. “I think I’m moving on to the national competition.”

You must appreciate accurate, relevant and productive community journalism.  Support this sort of work from professional reporters with seasoned editors.  Become a member for $12 per month -30-
Already a member? Sign in here


Delaware Environmental Institute fellow studies wetlands to understand climate change

Five questions with Delaware’s 8-year-old TIME for Kids reporter

With a wintry weather survival kit, Salem High wins teen founder competition



Hear from the privacy pros at Security by the Schuylkill

Radnor, PA


Product Manager / Business Analyst / Customer Care

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA


Full-Stack Javascript Engineer

Apply Now

Technically Media Editorial Intern (Summer 2019)

Apply Now

Watch these Wilmington STEM Scouts show off their homemade CO2 cars

Meet the UD professor featured in HBO’s ‘The Case Against Adnan Syed’

How to join a community of changemaking women



Learn to lead digital transformation at Phorum 2019



Software Engineer

Apply Now
Malvern, PA


Senior Front End Engineer – CX Journey Lab

Apply Now
Baltimore, MD 21201

14 West

Senior Software Engineer (Java + Apache Spark)

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Delaware

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!