AIDS research done by 17-year-olds: Day 2 at AAAS 2012


16 Responses to “AIDS research done by 17-year-olds: Day 2 at AAAS 2012”

  1. Bookburn says:

    I’m sure everyone doing this research means well, but this case seems very similar to  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

    • Oh, it reminded me of that as well. Which is one reason why I thought it might be useful to talk a little about the family here on the off chance that they might find out about this. If there’s one thing I learned from HELA it’s that transparency is better.

      It’s also worth noting that the high schoolers had to develop their own release forms for the testing project they did. And in those releases they specified to people what the blood samples they were taking would and would not be used for. “We will not clone you. We will not sell your samples to anyone.” That’s good practice that they’re learning going forward at least. 

    • John_Wilmot says:

      I had the same thought. 

  2. That_Anonymous_Coward says:

    It is exciting, given the history of research on HIV, to see people working on the science rather than who gets the credit.

  3. Harry Kestler here  I just wanted to add that two other Early College High School Students also presented at AAAS: Victoria Soewarna (age 16) and Alexandra Fulton (age 16) also presented.  Thank you for shining light on our Early Scientist Program.

  4. This was very interesting. Thank you.

  5. Ben Burger says:

    ummm “two teenagers who go to high school at the same community college.”  is that a mistake? or do I not understand the US education system?

    • It’s explained further down if you read the whole article. These students are participating in a very rare program where they take all their classes at the community college and graduate with a high school diploma and an associates’ degree (equivalent to two years worth of college credits). 

      It’s definitely not the norm for the US educational system. But it is pretty damn cool. 

  6. CyberIstari says:

     The high school-on-college-campus program is explained in the article. It’s not unique to there, and there are variations between programs (there are some around here, and even variations within one school system’s different programs), but I doubt its common either.

    • It’s definitely not common to the extent that they’re doing it. My high school allowed you to take some classes it didn’t offer through community college and earn college credit. But this is a lot more than that. These students never go to a normal high school. They take all their classes at the community college and graduate with an associates’ degree as well as the high school diploma. I’m sure there are a handful of other places that do that in the US, but it’s very, very rare. 

  7. KingManduca says:

    This is awesome, but I just have to wonder about informed consent. Did this family give informed consent to have their samples used for research? And the information about the family given here…maybe risking a breach in privacy? 

  8. Diana Shuman says:

    @boingboing-84d55bff9e1098161b4ccf1354363d99:disqus, yes, the family originally did give informed consent back in the early 90′s when their samples were taken.  As far as privacy is concerned, all information that is included in this article is relevant demographic information and for that reason, does not breach their privacy. It will also be included when the research gets published. Had we given names or initials or anything similar to that, it would be a different matter. While that information was originally available to Dr. Kestler, a system was put into place to remove any identifiable information with the exception of the birth order. IE parents and children are identified by their generation (A/B) and their order on the pedigree (I,II,III, etc).

    One correction to the high school kid’s work is that they took samples of cheek cells, using a cheek swabbing protocol that they designed, tested and perfected before beginning their project, not blood. As Dr. Kestler mentioned above, we cannot and must not forget the other two students that were presenting with Meghan and Connor, Victoria (the project’s principal investigator) and Alex, both 16 have been with the project since its inception and their hard is not overlooked. We also have an additional same sized group of high school sophomores (a year younger than this group) who joined our lab 7 months ago.

    As one of the leads in Dr. Kestler’s group, I must say a big thank you for covering our group and noticing what I’ve been telling them all along, what they do, is kinda a big deal and we’re all so very proud of them. The opportunity that Dr. Kestler has given all of us is an incredible blessing and we are so lucky to be able to take part.

  9. Joshua Snape says:

    It’s really good to see this going on but you should not be so suprised that 17 years are smart! 

  10. alphadeltaalpha says:

    One possible way to identify the family would be to try to match the DNA in the blood samples against various forensic databases. 

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