One of the latest projects to come out of Singularity University aims to diagnose any cancer within an hour using a blood sample and an iPhone.
Gilad Gome won a scholarship to Singularity University from the Ramon foundation and the science ministry .The Ramon Foundation encourages the future generations to realize their personal and social potential, which lies latent in each of us for a society based on high values and ideals through the inspiration of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli Astronaut, the STS 107 crew and Asaf Ramon, Ilans and Rona’s son. Gilad is a biotechnology and molecular microbiology graduate student at Tel Aviv University under the supervision of prof Ehud Gazit. SU is based at NASA Ames in mt.view,CA and brings the most promising young minds together in an attempt to change the world.
“The mission was to impact the lives of a billion people in 10 years. We were a group of 80 people from around 40 countries – scientists, entrepreneurs, designers, social innovators & more.
“During the 5 week course we were taught about new exponential technologies that are going to change the world. We were supposed to tackle 8 global challenges: Global health, poverty, environment, energy, security, water, education, and food. The idea was to use far-reaching methods – synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, the Internet, molecular manufacturing, policy making etc. – to make a real change.
“After the 5 weeks we had to form teams of 3-6 people. Our team of 6 included members Alejandro and Pablo from Chile, Jorge from Mexico, Ferran from Panama, Fay from Greece and me from Israel. We had no idea what we were going to do. Every time we came up with an idea we would pitch it to the people in charge and they’d say it’s nice but we can do better. They had high expectations of us.
“My co-founder Fay Christodoulou is a post doc that specializes in micro RNA, and we had this idea that if we could utilize microRNAs to help people diagnose cancer earlier, that would be amazing. So we started doing science.
“We used biocurious, the bio hacker-space in San Francisco. We got samples of total RNA to test from Stanford, and ran experiments on them to see if we could detect one microRNA out of all the total RNA, and we could. In fact we achieved a direct correlation between the strength of the glow and the amount of that microRNA sequence present in the sample.
MicroRNAs act as a biomarker, meaning that the presence of a particular sequence or combination of sequences is associated with a type of cancer or other condition.
“We made a device that would read a plate of 96 wells, each detecting a different microRNA sequence and allowing us to test for 96 types of micro RNA at the same time. The entire process takes place in this device, you just need to add the total RNA from a blood sample and after 30mins-1 hour you have a glowing pattern. We used published papers associating microRNA patterns with cancer types and generated a list of cancer types according to their microRNA profile.
“Then we added an iPhone to link the plate to the internet. It takes photos of the plate and sends an image to the cloud. The device – known as Mir.i.am – takes the readings but all the analysis happens online. Based on the microRNA profile we can detect the cancer if it’s there and we believe that in the future we’ll be able to diagnose other diseases. Every local doctor and even nurse could have a Mir.i.am.
1 in 3 people will eventually get diagnosed with cancer, and the disease is responsible for 20% of all human deaths with the highest rates in Western countries. If you find it too late there’s nothing to be done but if you catch it early, there’s a good chance of survival. MirOculus hope to encourage people to check themselves regularly and prevent more unnecessary tragedies. “We can sneak up on cancer before it sneaks up on us.”
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