15 year old Jack Andraka invents new method of diagnosing cancer, thus saving the lives of millions of people around the world...and it is 168 times Faster, 26,000 times Cheaper, 400 times More Sensitive, and has a 99% Success Rate!
Hoax or Fact:
The message claims that 15 year old Jack Andraka has invented a new method of diagnosing cancer which is much faster, cheaper and more sensitive than the current diagnosing methods. Although it is a fact that Jack Andraka invented effective method of diagnosing Pancreatic cancer, he is not the first one to invent the cancer sensors he used in his screening technique.
About Jack Andraka
Jack Thomas Andraka hails from Crownsville, Maryland, USA and was born in January, 1997. Right from the age of 3 years, he was very much interested in science and developed a zeal to inquire the material world. He has grown up to become an an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He has in fact won the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair grand prize (Intel ISEF) of $75,000 for his work in developing a new method to detect Pancreatic Cancer.
How the Idea Came up
Jack Andraka has witnessed the death of his uncle and an acquaintance because of this pancreatic cancer. He was shocked to learn about the lack of early detection and rapid, sensitive, inexpensive diagnosing method for pancreatic cancer, which resulted in poor survival rate. So Jack set out to develop a cancer screening tool himself that can detect and prevent the cancer growth before the cancer cells start spreading.
In an interview, Jack told that he got the idea of diagnosing pancreatic cancer while he was in his biology class at North County High School, as he was drawing on the lesson about antibodies and the article on analytical methods that used carbon nanotubes he was secretly reading at the time. Then he said that he studied nanotubes and cancer biochemistry using Google Search, taking help of free online scientific journals.
The Cancer Diagnosis
Jack Andraka’s breakthrough diagnostic process involves a simple piece of filter paper that is dipped in a solution of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are hollow cylinders with wall thickness of the size of a single atom. These nanotubes are coated with a specific antibody and are designed to bind with the protein or virus you are diagnosing for. The trick in diagnosing the cancer cells is that there are significant changes in the electrical conductivity of these nanotubes when the distances between them changes. That is, when the antibodies on the surface of the nanotubes come in contact with a target protein or virus, the proteins bind to these tubes and spread them apart a tiny bit. This shift in the spaces between tubes is detected by an electrical meter.
Antibodies are proteins used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects like the bacteria and viruses, the cancer proteins in this case. Andraka found thousands of proteins that could be detected in the blood of people suffering with pancreatic cancer, and he hunted for the one that can serve as an early flag of the illness.
Andraka’s sensor could diagnose the presence of pancreatic cancer-linked protein well before it starts spreading and becomes invasive. As reported in Forbes, it is 168 times faster, 26,667 times less expensive, and 400 times more sensitive than the existing diagnosing methods of cancer. Andraka's sensor only costs $3, while the 60-year-old current diagnostic technique called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) can cost up to $800. Also, ten tests can be performed with one strip, each test only taking five minutes.
This diagnosing method for pancreatic cancer can indeed save the lives of thousands of victims every year. Importantly, it can also be used for monitoring the resistance to antibiotics and increase the progression of cancer treatment in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.
In the video on right, Andraka briefs about his invention at Intel science fair. The video also shows this young 15 year old (now 16) getting ecstatic as he receives the ISEF award to achieve his childhood dream.
Jack Andraka is currently in the process of patenting his invention and approaching the American Association for Cancer Research to publish his work. The 15 year old said that he will develop efficient ways to screen other forms of cancer as well as heart disease and HIV/AIDS, and will completely replace the ELISA test within few years.
However, it is to be noted that Andraka is not the first person to create a sensor of carbon nanotubes coated with antibodies and use it for screening cancer. In 2008, researchers at the University of Delaware created an exceptionally sensitive sensor for cancer breast cells, and in July 2009, researchers in South Korea worked with prostate cancer cells. Jack Andraka used similar diagnosing technique to develop an efficient way of screening Pancreatic cancer.