Meet Maya–the next generation of Alzheimer’s disease reseachers

Meet Maya–the next generation of Alzheimer’s disease reseachers

Hi, my name is Maya Burhanpurkar and I’m a 13 year old, grade nine student.

I’ve always been the scientific type. When I was a toddler, I refused to watch cartoons on TV and instead insisted on watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. And I always asked questions – how, why and why not.

In grade five, I did my first science project. I came up with the idea when I visited India in the middle of the H1N1 outbreak. Why can’t we have safe antibiotics and antivirals? I asked. In my project, I conducted a series of experiments over the course of three years to determine the antibacterial and gastrointestinal effects of several herbs and spices commonly stocked in kitchen pantries.

Now, to the part about Alzheimer’s disease:

Touring the TANZ research centre with the ASO

Before I turned 11, I didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s disease other than it makes you lose your memory. But when my grandpa’s Alzheimer’s took a turn for the worse, I started researching.

What are the compounds that would be able to breach the blood brain barrier and inhibit amyloid beta plaques? I asked. These plaques disrupt communication between nerve cells and characterize Alzheimer’s disease. After a long time, I finally came across two potential compounds that satisfied my requirements.

But I wasn’t done yet. My grandfather, like many other seniors, also suffered from severe cardiac and gastrointestinal disorders. How do I make sure that these compounds are safe? I asked. The cardiac and gastrointestinal biosaftey of the two compoundswere, at the time, unknown. So, I decided to undertake the first controlled study to uncover just that.

Through a series of experiments, I was able to do exactly what I originally set out to do and more! Aside from determining the biosafety of the two compounds in an animal model, I also made several discoveries about their other properties. I found out they possess cardio-protective properties and can protect the heart from cardiac stress, heart arrhythmias and heart attacks. At the 51st Canada Wide Science Fair in Charlottetown, PEI, I was awarded the Platinum Award for my research.

Photo courtesy of:

Of course, this is just the beginning. It is a complicated subject. Scientists now feel that eliminating the amyloid beta plaques may not help much, but my research may help seniors at risk of heart failure. More experiments will have to be done before these compounds can be safely prescribed to patients.

So there you have it – a brief history of my science journey so far. I’m hoping that in the years to come, I will have even better tales of research on Alzheimer’s disease and  other dementias and new discoveries to report on this blog. I am also sure that one day in the near future, we will finally find an answer to Alzheimer’s puzzle.


Maya Burhanpurkar

Guest Blogger

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