More

This teen just found a possibly life-saving new way to diagnose deadly diseases.

She won the Google Science Fair, but the real winner is humanity.

This teen just found a possibly life-saving new way to diagnose deadly diseases.
True
the Ad Council - #TrendOnThis

Why is Olivia Hallisey celebrating? Because she just kicked butt at the Google Science Fair and took home gold.

The Connecticut high school student recently won the grand prize in the 16-18 category at the 2015 Google Science Fair. Her project — developing a quick, easy, and accurate test for Ebola — won the judges' hearts for its potential to make a big change in the world.


Woo! Congrats! GIF from Google Science Fair.

Olivia's project stemmed from the devastating Ebola outbreak that spread across parts of West Africa.

As is the case with many diseases, the earlier we're able to diagnose Ebola, the better the patients' chances are for recovery and for reducing the risk of further spreading the disease.

Part of what makes Ebola particularly devastating is that early diagnosis is especially difficult because the early symptoms aren't particularly unique. Here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say:

"Diagnosing Ebola in a person who has been infected for only a few days is difficult because the early symptoms, such as fever, are nonspecific to Ebola infection and often are seen in patients with more common diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever. ... Ebola virus is detected in blood only after onset of symptoms ... It may take up to three days after symptoms start for the virus to reach detectable levels."

GIF from Google Science Fair 2015.

And according to Olivia, the problem with current Ebola testing is that the tests require special tools and take half a day to produce a diagnosis:

"Current methods of Ebola detection utilize enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay ("ELISA") detection kits which cost approximately $1.00 each, require complex instrumentation, trained medical professionals to administer, and up to 12 hours from testing to diagnosis."

But what if there were a way to reduce the complexity of the ELISA test for Ebola? That could save lives.

Currently, Ebola tests are really complicated, involving vials and blood samples and other fancy lab equipment, but they also require 12 hours of temperature regulation that can really only be achieved in a lab setting.

Olivia took the same components, used silk fibers to stabilize them, and put the whole test and all its laboratory components on a piece of card stock.

Here's what her innovation looks like in action:

Olivia's card-stock test seen here against a black background. GIF from Olivia Hallisey.

Soon, testing for Ebola could be as simple as just adding water.

In Olivia's version of the test, chemicals used to detect the Ebola protein-bound antibodies are placed at three corners of the paper with anti-Ebola antibodies in the center.

Adding drops of water to the end of each arm of the card stock test moves the chemicals toward the center of the paper. Once the chemicals, the serum sample (blood) from the person being tested, and the water combine, the color in the center changes to give either a positive or negative reading.

In this case, a positive reading is when the test goes from blue to yellow (as you see in the GIF above).

The real breakthrough here, though, is that Olivia's innovation has made it possible for people to test for Ebola in their own homes.

This could eventually lead to easier, cheaper, faster tests for other diseases.

Given that ELISA tests can be used to detect a variety of antibodies, it's possible that Olivia's project could pave the way for at-home testing for HIV, Lyme disease, celiac disease, or even food allergies.

So cool!

GIF from Google Science Fair 2015.

Olivia was awarded a $50,000 scholarship and some much-deserved praise.

She told CNBC she plans on attending college and working for a global health organization: "I want to look everywhere, go anywhere to help people, I'm really excited about the future."

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy took to Twitter to congratulate the young scientist.


Olivia and the other finalists had the chance to meet another young science enthusiast — clock-making teen Ahmed Mohamed.


While the tests aren't being mass produced and distributed just yet, her work sets out an important proof of concept.

Being able to cut the time it takes to get results from 12 hours to just 30 minutes is nothing to scoff at, especially when the results come with similar accuracy to the standard lab test. But there's work to do before it goes from a creative project to a true weapon in the fight against infectious disease.

Interested in hearing Olivia describe her project? Check out her video below.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less