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Swathi Kompella, 12, Works to Cure Alzheimer's and Parkinson's with Stem Cells

Swathi Kompella aims to cure Alzheimer's

Scenes from TEDxYouth@MileHigh 2012.

Aleph Objects Founder Jeff Moe shows off his 3D printer, the LulzBot.

A peek at the exhibits lounge at TEDxYouth@MileHigh 2012.

What were you doing when you were 12 years old? TEDxYouth@MileHigh Speaker Swathi Kompella is working on stem-cell cures for brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Swathi Kompella is a fairly typical 12-year-old. She attends Campus Middle School in Englewood. She plays violin -- "but I'm not a pro," she says. She dances. She plays in school sports. She's thinking about college, and a medical career beyond that.Swathi Kompella aims to cure Alzheimer's
Oh, and she's designing stem-cell technology that might regenerate damaged cells in the brains of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients. 
Kompella has a vision of a pacemaker-like device implanted in the brains of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients. The device would attract neural stem cells and use them as a recuperative force.
"I'm trying to see if we could create a device that attracts neural stem cells and regenerates them," she explains. Then the renewed stem cells would make their way to the disease site to replace dead and diseased cells.
Swathi says she sees plenty of opportunities for additional related research in the future, but she's not exactly sure where it will take her. "There are a lot of factors to take into consideration," says Kompella. "I'm only 12 years old." Swathi's age makes access to a clinical environment difficult, but she says she hopes to find a laboratory soon where she can expand on her current work.
Amy Bainbridge is Swathi's teacher at Campus who has overseen her work with stem cells. Swathi first worked with a team in 2012 that tackled a stem-cell treatment for baldness, a project that led to her ideas for neural stem cells. "She started with brain cancer and it just kind of evolved," says Bainbridge. "She definitely took it to another level."
And Swathi is just one of the young superstars speaking at the sold-out TEDxYouth@MileHigh at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on April 12. "I'm really excited," she says.
TEDxYouth@MileHigh is an offshoot of TEDxMileHigh, which officially launched in 2011 and has produced five events since, with annual plans for TEDxMileHigh, TEDxYouth@MileHigh and TEDxWomen@MileHigh.
"The 'x' stands for independently organized TED events," says Micah Williams, Marketing and Special Projects Manager. (For the uninitiated, TED stands for Technology, Entertainmant and Design that was first held in 1984 and is now a twice-yearly conference in California.) This is the second annual TEDxYouth, says Williams, and it is completely full with students from all over Colorado. "Folks are coming in from everywhere from Bennett to Vail."
Besides Swathi, speakers for the crowd of middle- and high-school students include an inventor of an animatronic arm, an adventurer planning to bike to the South Pole and a hip-hop choir.
TEDxMileHigh 2013 tickets recently went on sale, but the speakers have yet to be announced. The event will be at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on June 15. Videos of Swathi Kompella and other TEDxYouth@MileHigh speakers at the April 12 event will be available on the TEDxMileHigh website and YouTube channel by early May.

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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