She never finished high school.
She’s very interested in booze, specifically booze that comes from red grapes. And she loves rocking out with her little sister.
She’s also heading to medical school at Stanford in the fall.
Guerrero just won a big honor in a Cal State University student research competition for her work with a chemical found in red wine that seems to be linked to health benefits. She joined an early college entrance program at Cal State Los Angeles after finishing ninth grade in high school.
She can’t drink red wine yet, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying to figure out wine’s health benefits.
The molecule she studied, trans-resveratrol, is thought to fight cancer, increase heart health and also have other benefits.
Guerrero, along with a team of other students and their professor at Cal State LA, tested how well the molecule was able to grab singlet oxygen when it was exposed to light. The oxygen molecule used is a highly reactive form that can damage DNA. Her research won a second-place prize.
It turns out that trans-resveratrol isn’t that great at removing the oxygen, but something unexpected happened during the experiment.
The reaction formed Moracin M, a chemical found in the bark of a tree in China that is widely used in traditional medicine.
It also formed aldehyde, which is toxic. Guerrero still isn’t sure why the reaction made the two different products.
Her team will now run another set of experiments where they mix in glucose, a chemical abundant in humans. The experiments would mimic conditions inside our bodies near our skin, where light could react with the trans-resveratrol molecule.
Like many scientists studying the health benefits of red wine, Guerrero isn’t sure what role trans-resveratrol plays.
“In the popular media, they are saying red wine has health benefits,” Guerrero said. “As far as (trans-resveratrol’s) direct benefits in humans, nothing’s for sure sure yet.”
She has been wondering if the reactions touched off by trans-resveratrol, rather than the molecule’s ability to tie up the singlet oxygen, are more beneficial than molecule’s anti-oxidizing properties. There’s a lot more research to perform, she said.
Soon she’ll be off to Stanford, where she will get the chance to continue researching while she trains to become a physician.
Guerrero learned to read at a very young age, so her parents have encouraged her and her sister to excel in school.
She grew up in Downey and went to Sussman Middle School for a short time before she ended up going to Whitney High School, an advanced school in Cerritos. After her freshman year, she chose to go to Cal State LA, where she is wrapping up her bachelor’s degree work.
She enjoys playing violin and piano with her 13-year-old sister. They like classical music, and a little pop, Guerrero said.
If she wants trans-resveratrol, she can eat red grapes.
Guerrero plans to keep studying it’s role in human health. The last round of tests have got her thinking.
“It was curiosity that drove the study,” she said. “It was a discovery driven project.”