2016 Scholarship Winner

Essay

Matthew

Dutch Fork High School

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We hear about non-renewable resources in the news everyday: oil, coal, natural gas. One resource we rarely hear about, however, is human blood. The liquid matrix that pulses through our arteries and veins is one of the most valuable resources in our bodies, but it is also one of the most difficult to replace. The lack of sufficient blood stores is a major problem facing modern medicine, and the statistics regarding the blood supply are staggering. In the United States alone, a blood transfusion is required every two seconds to help treat traumatic injuries and disease. This blood use sums to roughly thirty million pints of blood being utilized each year. A complication thus arises in maintaining sufficient blood stores to meet this growing demand. To exacerbate an already precarious condition, blood types further attenuate the supply of blood in proportion to those who need it. In order to share blood cells between individuals, the cells must match in molecular composition to prevent the induction of an immune response by the body.

The classification specifications required for transfusion, coupled with the insubstantial supply of blood, pose a major challenge to modern medicine and the efficacy of procedures and treatments that rely on transfusion medicine. In response to this quandary, I am seeking to discover an efficient, efficacious way to strip blood cells of their surface antigens, thereby making them capable of universal donation regardless of blood type. I am currently applying my education by conducting independent research aimed at quantifying antigen concentration in red blood cells under the guidance of advisors at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. My research, when completed in May of this year, will be the first documented research on the distribution of surface antigens in lipid-dense blood cell membrane domains.

Essentially, my work in the lab will improve scientists’ ability to remove the antigens from blood, and will contribute to greater blood stores on a universal scale. As I move forward into college, I will take my research with me, and I will use my education to expand upon my findings. Ultimately, my work to ensure sufficient blood stores whenever they are needed will not only prepare our local community for a new wave of modern medicine, but also will touch the lives of those in every community across the world. A stable supply of blood is critical to the expansion of global health, and my research will prepare our global community for the challenges of disease and illness for the next eighty years.