“…..In only three minutes he had the audience dumbfounded with the results of his work: a paper test strip that uses minute changes in conductivity to detect targeted viruses or antigens faster, cheaper and more accurately than today’s standard diagnostics. For a teenager he is disarmingly forthright and direct in talking about complex chemistry, but he’s also good at making it understandable to the lay person. It seems too good to be true, but the panel of judges at the Intel science fair are not rubes.
Andraka’s diagnostic breakthrough is a humble piece of filter paper, except that it is dipped in a solution of carbon nanotubes, which are hollow cylinders with walls the thickness of a single atom, coated with a specific antibody designed to bind with the virus or protein you’re looking for. Andraka’s key insight is that there are noticeable changes in the electrical conductivity of the nanotubes when the distances between them changes. When the antibodies on the surface of the nanotubes come in contact with a target protein, the proteins bind to the tubes and spread them apart a tiny bit. That shift in the spaces between tubes can be detected by an electrical meter. Andraka used a $50 meter from the Home Depot to do the trick but he says doctors can just as easily use the kind of test strip devices used by millions of diabetics around the world…..
…..It can spot the presence of the cancer-linked protein well before the cancer itself becomes invasive. This could save the lives of thousands of pancreatic cancer victims each year. The sensor costs $3 (ELISA can cost up to $800) and ten tests can be performed per strip, with each test taking five minutes. It can be used also to monitor resistance to antibiotics and follow the progression of treatment of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.
Andraka is in the process of patenting his invention…”
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