Teen's invention helps detect cancer cells during surgery
It's an innovative device that uses light waves to detect cancer in cells and the bright idea was brought to life by a 14-year-old boy.
Aaryan Harshith’s invention looks like a flashlight, but one day it could have a big impact on medical science.
"LightIR is essentially the first ever cancer detection probe that can detect cancer in real time during a surgical procedure,” he says.
Cancer runs in Harshith’s family. It took the life of his grandfather and other relatives as well.
He says his design is relatively simple, using the principle of spectroscopy, shining a light on an object and analyzing the changes reflected back. The LightIR probe does just that: there is an light emitting diode and a sensor to pick up the bounced back information.
In the case of Harshith's invention, it's to detect cancer in cells.
"The probe is essentially targeted to surgeons around the world that need a quicker way to detect cancer more accurately,” he says.
Currently, during surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, samples must be taken and sent to pathologists to test each one. Harshith says his device could be far more effective.
In order to build his light box, he needed the help of someone who had more experience and insight and to help push his idea forward, Harshith turned to the Makerspace program at Algonquin College. Its purpose is to help anyone bring their ideas to life using equipment and industry professionals.
Program lead Matthew Jerabek says this was one of the top projects he had seen at the Makerspace. They were able to offer expert advice building circuit boards and help make plastic 3D prints.
Harshith was only available to work on his design on Sunday's, when the space is closed. Jerabek says, the staff opened their doors for him after hearing about his idea.
"To have the technicians be so passionate about an idea and have the belief in an idea that it could turn out and want to help that they would," Jerabek said. "It's incredible to see. I'm very interested in seeing the future of this device and I think it's only the beginning at this point."
Harshith tested his device with cancer cells provided by a university and the result were astounding.
"It was over 99.5 percent accurate which is roughly around the same as pathology labs but then again it's around 60,000 times faster."
While the device only detects some cancers, more research is needed and patents are underway.
The young entrepreneur’s hope is to one day begin human trials.
"I did anything I possibly could to get to where I need to be to see a world where people could believe that the treatment they're getting for a disease is threatening and as prevalent as cancer at their hope that the disease can be cured would be fulfilled."