Leah Schwartz

By REBECA KUROPATWA

Leah Schwartz (17) has always loved delving deeply into scientific research. Both of her parents share a passion for science as well.
Schwartz studied at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) Collegiate and did some research at the Cardiac Fibrosis lab in St. Boniface Hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

“In the summer of 2018, I began as a summer student in the lab at the St. Boniface Research Center,” said Schwartz. “I was offered the opportunity to do my own project through that lab.

“Cardiac Fibrosis is a cardiac disease which occurs when there’s an accumulation of various cells, including stress fibers in the heart which thickens the heart’s walls and prevents it from functioning properly,” Schwartz explained.
“When it stiffens, it (the heart) can’t pump properly. It can happen at any age, due to heart injury or stress,” she added.

This past May Schwartz was awarded the Gold Medal of Excellence at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF), held in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Out of a pool of 500 top Canadian student scientists, Schwartz won top prize for her project which looks at protein markers that help diagnose cardiac fibrosis.
Schwartz’s winning project was titled the “Regulation of Periostin Gene Expression by Scleracis”.
“My project was looking at how one protein regulates the gene expression of another protein,” said Schwartz.
The hope is that her project will lead to the development of new treatment therapies to treat cardiac fibrosis.
“These proteins are naturally found throughout the body,” said Schwartz. “So, when you get cardiac fibrosis, the heart cells turn into different types of heart cells. These other heart cells have a biological marker for the specific protein, so we get an increase of this protein with cardiac fibrosis.
“The goal is to determine the mechanism by which one protein (Scleraxis) regulates and interacts with specific sites to regulate another protein (Periostin) expression.
“Eventually, we would look to develop treatments and therapies. But, before we do that, we need to gain a better understanding of the different factors and influences in cardiac fibrosis.”
Schwartz is continuing to work on the project, doing more tests before it will eventually be included in upcoming publications. In the fall, she will be heading to the University of Toronto (U of T) to continue her education.
“Out of the universities I applied to and was accepted to, this one had the program I was interested in the most, and the most opportunity for me to continue some kind of undergraduate research...and also, I have family in Toronto, so I did want to move there eventually.”
Schwartz had won university scholarships as part of her winning gold medal, but she opted to forgo them to be able to study at the faculty of her choice (and she did receive other scholarships for the U of T).
She will be starting her university education a little earlier than most, at the age of 17, as Schwartz completed high school at the U of W collegiate in three years instead of four.