Around 400 million people are infected with malaria each year, most of these in sub-Saharan Africa where many Dandenong High students come from. About two million people die from malaria each year. While treatments exist there is little available in the form of a vaccine and what there is, is very expensive. Sixteen students from Hakea 9 science attended Medical Research Day at the Gene Technology Access Centre (University High School) in term II to find out how to make vaccines for diseases like malaria.
To set the scene, students heard about the details of malaria from one of Australia’s top biomedical scientists: its worldwide health implications, its transmission, the Anopheles mosquito and the Plasmodium organism that causes malaria. They were then mentored by practising young scientists from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute and carried out experiments with their guidance to investigate the genetics of the disease. In the GTAC lab they were able to extract DNA from human blood cells, replicate it by Polymerase Chain Reaction and analyse it for the presence of malarial DNA by gel electrophoresis They went on to separate the malarial DNA and use it to generate malarial protein. They found out how to evaluate that protein as a potential vaccine against malaria and how to use that to make a vaccine.
Students rated the day as very informative and said it helped them think about the benefits of studying science. Perhaps one of them will make a vaccine to save millions of lives each year (even possible future DHS students).
By Mr N. Murray