In news that will probably make you feel like a worthless lump of a human being, a 15-year old high-school Freshman from Maryland has created a paper test strip for detecting cancer in its very early stages, and is being hailed as the nation’s next great scientific mind.
Jack Andraka says he got the idea for the test strip–which is dipped in a solution of carbon nanotubes coated in antibodies that are designed to attract a specific virus or protein–while sitting in Biology class, and shopped his idea around to more than 200 researchers before finding one at Johns Hopkins University who would let him use their lab for his studies. What he found was that the paper strips were 100% accurate, but more than that, they targeted cancer cells way before the disease would become invasive. Because Andraka used pancreatic cancer as his main focus of study, those findings were of particular interest, because pancreatic cancer has an alarming 5% survival rate. However, ovarian and lung cancer can also be detected with the strips because of their reliable biomarkers.
The good news doesn’t stop there. These paper strips are thousands of times less expensive than the current tests used for detection and around 400 times more sensitive, meaning doctors can seek out dangerous cells faster, cheaper, and more accurately than ever before.
Andraka has already won the prestigious grand prize at the Intel International Science And Engineering Fair and has presented his findings at a TED Talk, which is kind of a big deal in the science world (if you’re unfamiliar with the Ted Talks, look them up. Each one is led by a different person on a different topic, but they are all extremely interesting. You can find them streaming on Netflix, among other places). He’s also patented his discovery, and says if things go well he will be working on starting his own company soon for further development. High school, apparently, will have to wait.