Awesome 17-Year-Old Girl Invents Nanoparticle That Kills Cancer Cells
By: Cassie Murdoch
What were you doing when you were 17? Playing video games with your friends? Smoking outside the back door of your high school? Well, unless you answered “curing cancer,” prepare to feel like an underachiever compared to Angela Zhang. The impressive 17-year-old from Cupertino, California just won the $100,000 Grand Prize of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for a project called, “Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells.” Not too shabby, right?
It’s even more impressive once you can understand what that title of that project actually means. Basically she created a nanoparticle that kills cancer cells. Here’s what’s so special about it:
Zhang said the particle she designed improves on current cancer treatments because it delivers a drug directly to tumor cells and doesn’t affect healthy cells around it. The particle is also able to release a drug when activated by a laser.
A laser? Hot damn! Her creation is being heralded as a “swiss army knife of cancer treatments” because it has so many different potential uses. As is often the case with these types of innovations, it’s many years away from being used in actual patients, but it’s still quite an accomplishment—especially for a teenager.
Her research was spurred by the deaths of her grandfather and great-grandfather from cancer, she explained:
I asked, “Why does this happen. Why does cancer cause death? What are we doing to fix this and what can I do to help?”
And her win didn’t come without dedication. Zhang has been working on this nanoparticle since 2009 and has spent more than 1,000 hours on the project. Hmm, suddenly makes all of that time I spent wandering around the mall and listening to Nirvana seem like kind of a waste.