This 16-year-old hacked a printer to come up with a cheaper way to detect heart disease
Adriel Sumathipala is a self-described tinkerer. The 16-year-old says the trait runs in the family: His grandfather, who died of a heart attack before Sumanthipala was born, also loved to build things too.
Once Sumanthipala learned that he and his family were also at risk for the disease that caused him to know his grandfather solely through “stories and grainy photos,” he tried to stick to a regimen of exercise and healthy eating.
But he felt frustrated that he had no way to monitor the effectiveness of his lifestyle changes, because today’s cardiac diagnostic tests require expensive lab testing to measure cholesterol levels.
So, the teen set about creating an on-site, super low-cost, rapid heart disease test that ultimately won him a spot as one of Google’s 20 Global Science Fair finalists.
Instead of measuring cholesterol, his test would measure oxidized low-density lipoproteins (Ox-LDL), a biomarker that has an even stronger correlation with cardiac disease.
“I envisioned a diagnostic that would place vital health data in the hands of doctors and patients and thus establish the framework for a personalised medicine revolution,” he writes.
With the help of his biology teacher, Sumathipala spent two years trying to build such a diagnostic system.
Ultimately, he was able to hack an inkjet printer to deposit enzymes onto two Ox-LDL sensors that he developed. The paper sensor could then indicate whether the enzymes have high or low concentrations of the cardiac disease biomarker Ox-LDL.
(Learn more about the project here.)
I totally agree we need cheaper, more accessible and more personalized healthcare. Part of that is making low cost tests that can be done anywhere and which have more accurate correlations with incidence of disease.