Wayzata HS student takes stem cell research to national competition

A Minnesota teen will be one of 40 high school students nationwide competing for a top prize of $100,000 at the annual Intel Science Talent Search in Washington D.C. Thursday.

Evan Chen, a student at Wayzata High School, focused his research on a type of stem cell that could help replace and regenerate muscle lost by people suffering from muscular dystrophy.

Chen told Tom Crann of All Things Considered that he was inspired to do the research after meeting three boys from Taiwan who were in Minnesota seeking treatment for the disease.

"They left after the experiment; the treatment didn't work," Chen said. "I was pushed not only by my experience with them, but also my fascination with stem cells."

The advanced research Chen envisioned couldn't be done in a high school laboratory, so Chen approached local scientists for help.

"Eventually one sat down with me and we talked about the research I wanted to do," Chen said. "He was like, 'Sure, you can use my lab for this.'"

Chen and the other students will be judged by a panel of scientists. Other projects in the contest include an inexpensive system to detect landmines and a light-activated cancer treatment drug.

The students also have a visit scheduled with President Barack Obama.

Transcribed by MPR reporter Jon Collins

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