We've seen teens devise potential cures for cancer, build nuclear reactors and use musical instruments as inspiration for the creation of low-cost landmind detectors -- all before receiving their high school diplomas. And now, the latest in a line of unbelievable teen scientists has made another major breakthrough. Sixteen-year-old Janelle Tam has discovered that cellulose, a material found in trees that helps them stand up straight, is an antioxidant with potent anti-aging properties.
Tam's study of minute particles in tree pulp known as nano-crystalline cellulose (NCC) led to an "a-ha"! moment for the young innovator -- she had unearthed a super-durable material that had the power to fight disease and prevent aging. This unbelievable discovery won Tam the 2012 Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada, a national competition for young scientists.
NCC is similar to antioxidants Vitamin C and Vitamin E in terms of its ability to fight damaging free-radicals, but it may even be superior insofar as it is more stable and therefore potentially longer-lasting.
"It would be really nice to commercialise this," Tam told AFP. "I envision it more as an ingredient that would be added to existing formulations, so it could be added to tablets or bandaids for a wound dressing or it could be added to cosmetic cream."
Her game-changing innovation -- which could literally shape the face of the anti-aging product industry -- earned Tam a a $5,000 award from the National Research Council of Canada.
In addition to Tam, 12 other bright high school juniors and seniors total were selected to competed in the national finals, with experiments guided by the competition's theme, "How will you change the world?" Second-place winner Rui Song developed advances into the creation of more nutritious lentils, and third place was awarded to Alexander Tigert and Zelun Zhang, who used genetically-modified baker's yeast to test the effects of drug treatments for depression and anxiety.