An Upstate Middle School student is proving you’re never too young to make an impact. 13-year-old Karley Gregg discovered something that even NASA scientists didn’t know.
And some day her research could help astronauts in space.
When astronauts spend a long time on the International Space Station NASA has found they come home with weakened immune systems.
Gregg, who just completed 8th grade at Mabry Middle School in Inman, made it her mission this year to help unearth the effects of space on our immune cells.
She showed 7News her experiment that included the use of a machine that rotates cells to simulate microgravity.
“We were trying to see if the T cells could be activated by the dendritic cells if the dendritic cells were put into simulated microgravity,” she said.
I know, we didn’t understand it either.
In simple terms, Dentritic cells identify foreign invaders and tell the Tcells to get rid of them.
Her science teacher, Richard Lane can only describe Gregg’s science experiment as out of this world.
“There were a lot of questions that the students gave her and she did a fabulous job and that was really the telltale sign of who actually did this project,” said Lane.
After all, Gregg’s dad, Randal Gregg, is a scientist with VCOM, and was just as excited to learn the results: 72 hours of microgravity made the dendritic cells more likely to activate Tcells than the control group.
“I did not expect to see this elevated activity. And we just kind of smiled at each other and was like what is this. And I looked at her and I said do you realize what we’ve found no one else knows this on the planet,” said Randal Gregg.
This past month Gregg found out she was one of a handful of winners of a national science competition.
A record number of students entered the “Genes in Space” competition this year, nearly 800, and only 5 middle school students were chosen for the Junior award.
“Our panel of Harvard and MIT scientists was really blown away by the sophistication of Karley’s idea, we thought it was a really compelling experiment,” said Dr. Katy Martin with Genes in Space.
“It’s taught me no matter how many times you think this is not going to work to keep going, it’s going to pay off in the end,” said Gregg.
NASA sends the winning experiment among high schoolers to space. But Gregg isn’t waiting that long her father is working on a grant to submit her experiment to NASA directly.