Indrani Das (center) with Arjun Ramani (left) and Aaron Yeiser.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Teenager Indrani Das garnered top honors at this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search competition, she was awarded a $250,000 prize for her research in treating the death of neurons due to brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases.

The 17-year-old New Jersey native emerged victorious in the oldest science competition in existence for students, which is also known publicly as the “Junior Nobel Prize.” Das was honored along with other 39 finalists on Wednesday at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search Awards Gala.

A contributor to neuron death is astrogliosis, a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing their uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons. In a laboratory model, Das showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with micro RNA-124a both improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and increased neuron survival.

Second place, which came with a $175,000 prize, was awarded to 18-year-old Aaron Yeiser. In third was another Indian-American, 18-year-old Arjun Ramani, from Indiana. He was awarded $150,000.

“Congratulations to the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 top winners,” George D. Yancopoulos, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron said in a statement. “My experience as a Science Talent Search winner led me to embark on a career in science, and I hope it will inspire these exceptional young scientists to become the next generation of innovators that will improve the world and solve some of our most pressing challenges as society.”

“Now more than ever, we need our nation’s best and brightest young minds to pursue their interest in science and use their talents to solve our world’s most intractable problems,” said Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News.

Ajmera said, “I congratulate our finalists, who are all poised to become our future scientific leaders.”

Three other Indian-American teenagers were also honored at the gala in some capacity. Archana Verma, an 18-year-old from New York, received a $90,000 award for her study of the molecular orbital energy dynamics of dyes, which may someday result in windows that produce solar energy. Prathik Naidu, 18, from Virgina won a $70,000 prize for his creation of a new machine learning software to study 3-D interactions of the human genome in cancer. And finally, Vrinda Madan, 17, of Florida, received a $50,000 award for her study of 24 potential compounds for the treatment of malaria.