Local teen researching the disease he lives with

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Friday, October 12, 2018
Teen helping researchers try to find a cure for the disease that he lives with
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Teen helping researchers try to find a cure for the disease that he lives with - Alicia Vitarelli reports during Action News at noon on October 12, 2018.

UNIVERSITY CITY (WPVI) -- Philadelphia's well-known for medical research, with thousands of people in our city working in that field.

Recently, a high schooler got time in a professional lab, trying to find a cure for the disease that he lives with.

Yuva Gambhir has been getting a whole new look at Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Since summer, he's spent time in the lab of Dr. Hansell Steadman at Penn, studying the paralyzing disease he was diagnosed with at age 3.

"I know a lot about the symptoms of it, but I wanted to really learn more about what's going on at the molecular level," says Yuva.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder marked by progressive muscle weakness.

It occurs primarily in boys.

Dr. Steadman lost 2 brothers to it - he vividly recalls doctors studying his family.

"I was aware that the things I took for granted were a real challenge for my brothers," Dr. Steadman recalls.

Although 16-year-old Yuva can't actually conduct experiments, his questions help the team think in new ways - and be mindful of the hopeful families watching their progress.

"It offers a fresh perspective that we may not have ourselves," says Dr. Steadman.

"There are numerous accounts of people in a certain sub-specialty

Dr. Steadman and his team are about to publish an article about some exciting new findings.

And Yuva helped them get the diagrams and explanation just right so everyone will understand it.

"Now, he could roll over to a bench, look through a microscope, and actually see dystrophy," notes Dr. Steadman.

One promising avenue is gene therapy, which would correct the defect that causes Duchenne.

Yuva didn't just learn about the science of Duchenne, but about raising the money to keep research going.

"Actually, one of my goals is to become an investor," he says, with a big smile.

Since last month, he's already raised more than $26,000 in an online fundraiser for the non-profit Cure Duchenne.

And this weekend, his parents are their 5th annual "Blingo" event for the cause