When Soiba Mansoor’s brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, her parents, both from India, would give him an herb called bitter melon extract. Within a few hours, it would bring down his blood sugar level.
Mansoor, 16 years old and a senior at Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science, wondered: What was the science behind the herbal effect, and could it be replicated?
Her efforts to answer those questions won her a top award in the senior division for life sciences at the New Mexico State Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday and an all-expenses paid trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix.
Other grand winners in that category, for their respective projects, were Sara S. Manshad of Arrowhead Park Early College High School in Las Cruces and Priscilla R. Martinez of Taos High School in Taos.
Mansoor tested what effect the herb fenugreek – which has similar properties to bitter melon extract – had on 60 non-insulin dependent diabetics in a three-week study. One-third of the participants took the fenugreek twice a day, while one-third took a placebo and one-third did nothing. All three groups tested their blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
For the group taking the herb, Mansoor found a 33 percent drop in fasting blood sugar, a 23 percent drop in blood pressure, and an 18 percent drop in blood cholesterol.
“After I got those results, we can assume the risk of cardiovascular disease is also reduced since those are the risk factors leading to the disease,” said Mansoor, who plans to study medicine at the University of New Mexico.
Holly Erickson, a senior at Los Alamos High School, won a top award in the senior division for physical sciences for her project to create an artificial hand.
“I was trying to eliminate the use of plastics and metal that they typically use in prosthetic hands and make it look and function much more like an actual human hand,” she said. “The long term goal of the project is to be able to print the entire thing on a 3D printer.”
The other two grand winners in that category were Coleman J. Kendrick of Los Alamos High School and Katherine L Cordwell of Manzano High School in Albuquerque.
List of New Mexico State Science and Engineering Fair winners
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal