Since October 2021, a team of 30 pupils from CLSG and CLS have worked together to create a diagnostic mask for tuberculosis.
Our journey began with research around initial ideas, and ended with a silver medal, a nomination for best mathematical model and a nomination for best presentation. A handful of us were fortunate enough to go to the Grand Jamboree (an international, university-level science fair) in Paris and pitch the project live in front of a panel of judges. There, we were able to connect with other high school and university teams, forming new friendships.
The diagnostic mask is made of several steps: a sample collection, lysis, amplification, and detection. First, the user is required to breathe into the mask to collect the bacteria. Afterwards, the user presses a button on the water reservoir (blue compartment in the image below) which releases water, forcing the bacteria to move into the lysis tube. Here, the bacteria is destroyed, exposing its DNA. This is amplified in the next stage, to increase the sensitivity of the detection. This final step is made up of two parts: a CRISPR detection system and a lateral flow output. To summarise in simple terms, if the bacteria is present, its DNA will be extracted, amplified, detected by the CRISPR enzyme, leading to a positive result on the lateral flow. This is all incorporated directly into a regular KN95 mask.
Within the team, we were all able to play to our strengths, whether it was the engineers creating the mask, or the biologists testing lysis in labs, or the outreach team raising awareness through social media platforms, podcasts and assemblies. Although the journey was challenging, it was worthwhile, as we formed new connections and learnt the importance of working together as an interdisciplinary team.
- Cristina, year 13