Grade 10 team earns science award for colour blindness-correcting contact lenses
If you haven’t heard, CRISPR gene-editing technology is poised to change everything eventually—offering solutions for many degenerative and genetic diseases.
Now, two enterprising Grade 10 students, who took the initiative to enter the Toronto Science Fair themselves, have earned a silver medal—designing a theoretical prototype for contact lenses that delivers CRISPR technology into the eye to repair colour blindness.
Seungmyoung and Crystal are both extremely passionate about the field of medicine, specifically psychology and neuroscience, and their project was a result of much deep research along with a big dose of innovation.
In summary, they proposed the use of CRISPR, to modify small parts of the DNA (osteopontin genes), without vastly impacting their function. They created a prototype of innovative contact lenses to deliver the CRISPR genes as an alternative for subretinal injections and discussed possible implications of this innovation.
“As we move into a more technology-dependent society, we should become more aware of the technological innovations in medicine and future possibilities,” says Seungmyoung. “Technology has a great impact in reducing human error while improving the accuracy and precision of surgical procedures.”
“The attraction of neuroscience as a discipline is that it can relate to almost any part of the body,” says Crystal. Hence, the students wanted to create a project that took an interdisciplinary approach, synthesizing elements from medical studies, technology and robotics.
To say scientific research requires, as they put it, “boundless effort,” is an understatement and the work was done extracurricularly. “By consulting an extensive range of research articles to reaffirm the accuracies of our scientific theories, we were able to predict the potential of our idea,” says Seungmyoung.
With as many as 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women being colour blind, this prototype could be a widely received application. As an extension, the young scientists are interested in testing another innovative idea: an eye drop that can deliver comparable results, then receive guidance from lab professionals and elucidate upon their findings with aid of a literature review.
“It’s truly impressive that, during a year like this, these students have pushed themselves to find and engage in something that interests them beyond the classroom,” says their science teacher, Emily Bennett.