Teen invents tech that uses light to recognize cancerous tissue

The young man said he wanted to engineer something that would allow him to give back to the world.
Loukia Papadopoulos
An illustration of cancerous tissue.jpg
An illustration of cancerous tissue.


A Grade 12 student in Canada named Aaryan Harshith has won silver at the Canada Wide Science Fair for engineering a technology that uses light to distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue. 

His invention called LightIR could forever revolutionize how we treat cancer.

This is according to a report by Sudbury.com published yesterday.

“Surgery is one of the leading treatments for cancer, but a significant portion of  these procedures fail because surgeons leave behind microscopic traces of cancer cells in patients, which can reproliferate into new tumours that must be reoperated,” Harshith told the news outlet. 

“Today, we determine the presence of  leftover cancer cells in patients through facilities known as pathology labs, which analyze samples of  patient tissue under microscopes. Unfortunately, these tests can take weeks to complete, meaning that  patients with residual cancer have to be reoperated.”  

This is something Harsith could not live with so he decided to do something about it. That’s when he thought up the new technology.

“To support their abnormal growth, tumours manufacture a variety of molecules at characteristically different levels from normal tissue,” the student explained.

“Since different molecules respond to and interact  with light differently, it follows that cancerous and healthy tissue will have unique optical properties.  These are exactly the differences that LightIR exploits.” 

Other similar experiments

Building LightIR came naturally to the teen as he had done similar experiments in the past.

“I've always loved building things, and the process of taking very abstract ideas in my head and making them real,” he said. 

“At the same time, I'm really captivated by the biology of cancer. Back in 2019, I stumbled on a paper highlighting the scale of cancer surgery, and just how many of these procedures were unsuccessful because of this painfully simple bottleneck. “

“Around this time, I was also experimenting with a technique called vis-NIR spectroscopy, which allows scientists to understand the chemical content of unknown substances just by irradiating them with light. Being interested in both these areas simultaneously was really the impetus for this project.” 

Ultimately, the ingenious young man told Sudbury.com his main goal was to give back and help those struggling with cancer.

“I see my inventions and  projects as contributions to the world around me. Coming up with something new and sharing it with the world is inherently valuable. That's what makes science so powerful, and I'm proud to say I've added to science in my own little way.”

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