Sunday, June 24, 2012

Great Science Project – detecting diseases using a simple device

Jack Andraka is a 15-year old who has invented a method for detecting some types of cancer using a very simple and inexpensive device. He has won the $75,000 Intel prize. Visit the following site for more information:

This is just the beginning! Like all great inventions, this one opens up a hundred possibilities. There is room for hundreds of student projects taking off from Andraka’s idea! There is room for hundreds of related ideas!
What is the trick? He uses a solution containing carbon nanotubes coated with antibodies for something he wants to detect – a target protein. He dips a piece of filter paper in this solution and hooks it up to a device that measures electrical conductivity. When a suitable solution containing the target protein is applied to the filter paper, there is a detectable reduction in conductivity to indicate the presence of the target protein? Why? The target protein molecules bind to the antibodies. This pushes the nanotubes apart, making space for the protein molecules. You probably know that the bond between an antibody and its target protein is very, very specific. Antibodies don’t bind to any old protein molecules!
The greatest value of Andraka’s technique idea could be in detecting infectious diseases. If you demonstrate how this can be done, you might save thousands of lives, if not millions. Want to read up on some related ideas? Visit

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