High School Student’s Science Project Could Have Worldwide Applications

A Canadian teen really stepped up the game in a science competition, creating an early-stage test for HIV and taking home the first-place prize as a result of her efforts.

Nicole Ticea and her mentors at X University. Ticea recently won a regional competition for a test that evaluates early-stage HIV infection. (Image source: X)
Nicole Ticea and her mentors at Simon Fraser University. Ticea recently won a regional competition for a test that evaluates early-stage HIV infection. (Image source: Simon Fraser University)

Nicole Ticea, who attends York House School in Vancouver, won the 2014 regional Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada and will now take her project — “Isothermal Nucleic Acid Amplification System for Point-of-Care HIV Diagnosis” — to the national competition later this month.

Ticea’s test, which involves taking a tiny prick for blood and putting it on a small chip that analyzes the possibility of early HIV infection, could prove valuable in remote regions of the country where scientific labs are not present.

Ticea was mentored by a graduate student and faculty member at Simon Fraser University.

“What Nicole has accomplished gave me a bigger picture on my own work, which involves analyzing immunity controlling T-cell receptors to see how they can be used in developing an HIV vaccine,” graduate student Gursev Anmole said. “Nicole’s work really made me realize what a big difference a fast, easy-to-administer test for early stage HIV infection could make in prolonging, if not saving, thousands of lives in developing countries.”

The teen spent hours in the lab refining her idea while also juggling her regular class duties.

“Being in the lab really reinforced what I already knew, that scientific research involves dedication, determination, long hours and a deep-rooted love for the field that makes sacrifices worthwhile,” Ticea said.

An alumna of Ticea’s school, Emaleah Shackleton, actually works for an HIV testing laboratory now. After hearing about Ticea’s test, she asked Canada’s Global News somewhat jokingly, “How long until Nicole graduates? When can she start?”

Shackleton went on to say that early-stage detection is what HIV testing is moving toward, instead of just monitoring individuals considered high risk.

“There should no longer be missed opportunities to diagnose HIV and get people on treatment as early as possible,” Shackleton told Global News.

(H/T: Huffington Post)