Alex Sincere, a junior at Evanston Township High School, is a first-place winner in the Dupont Challenge, the nation’s premiere science-essay awards program. Alex will receive a $5,000 U.S. savings bond, an expenses-paid trip to Disneyworld for himself and a parent, and a private luncheon and exclusive tour of the NASA Kennedy Space Center.

Dupont also provides for his teacher/sponsor, Renee DeWald, to join him on his trip. Ms. DeWald, whose advanced placement chemistry class Alex attends, will also receive a $500 grant and the Dupont-sponsored opportunity to attend the 2011 National Science Teachers Association convention in San Francisco, where she will receive special recognition at the NSTA Teachers Awards Banquet.

DuPont posted excerpts from the first-place, junior- and senior-division entries on its web site on April 16. Alex Sincere’s entry reads as follows:

Alex Sincere, Senior Division First-Place Winner Stem Cells: Sight for Sore Eyes (excerpt)

“A laboratory mouse scurries around its tiny cage, navigating through it with familiarity and ease. At first glance, one might not find anything unusual about this. However, this mouse is blind, suffering from neuronal degeneration, a condition that has destroyed the nerves in his eyes and robbed him of his sight. Laboratory scientists have chosen this mouse and others with the same affliction to research how stem cells might be used to cure blindness.

Developing blindness after a lifetime of sight is particularly devastating. Imagine no longer being able to watch television, see a movie or play, or drive a car; relying on a cane or a seeing-eye dog to get around; learning Braille to read a book; no longer being able to enjoy a sunset, family photos, or pictures in a magazine; eating food you cannot see; or choosing clothes without the benefit of a mirror, hoping not to mix plaids with stripes nor wear white after Labor Day. Adjusting from the world of light to the world of darkness would be much more difficult than being born blind…

… Initial results of stem cell experiments on blind mice have shown great promise in curing neuronal degeneration.

These studies employed the surprisingly simple procedure of injecting stem cells directly into the eyes of the test mice. Over a 28-day period, scientists electrically measured the eyes of the mice for response to light, discovering that the eyes of those mice with no previous retinal function were no different than those of normal mice (Desaulniers, Mary).

Researchers around the world were excited to learn of these results. The hope is that by applying these same stem cell treatments to humans with macular degeneration, their blindness too could be reversed.

Unlike the fictional short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, where the results of a scientific experiment to cure a mouse and a man of mental deficiency proved to be only temporary, scientists believe stem cell treatment results will be permanent (XCell Center).”