About the solution
In 2011, Jack Andraka’s uncle died of pancreatic cancer.
This type of cancer is usually fatal because it is often diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, due to the location of the pancreas, which is deep inside the abdomen, so tumors may not show up or patients may develop symptoms until they’ve grown to a large size. When looking at this problem, Jack knew that the way to go about it wouldn't be the conventional route, but trying to come up with a different approach. This is when he began researching on biomarkers and particularly a protein called mesothelin, which in a person’s blood can be a clue that the tumors exist, long before they show up in a conventional x-ray ou MRI. This protein would be able to be quantified by the standard diagnostic technique known as ELISA, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, which is quite expensive and complicated, making it not as available as it should be.
With this in mind, Jack wanted to achieve the quickest and easiest way to perform this test, which would be a paper test, something similar to a pregnancy test. This lead him to develop his own paper tests for this protein, which work as the filter paper coated with microscopic tubes of carbon, have antibodies that attract the mesothelin. This compels the tubes to spread apart, and as more protein piles up, the carbon’s resistance to the flow of electricity drops, making this a very easy way to measure the presence of the mesothelin.
It wasn’t easy for Jack to convince adult researchers that his idea was worth a shot. He was rejected by 200 scientists in his quest to find someone to let him work on his project in an existing lab! Finally, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University listened, and gave him space to make his idea real.
Adapted from https://kidsdiscover.com/quick-reads/how-a-teenager-invented-a-better-te...
Get in touch with the inventor here https://twitter.com/jackandraka
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