Teens win prize for skin cancer diagnostics system

Mechanism's camera and computer track changes in the size, color, and shape of a mole that can indicate melanoma.

Two teenagers, whose development of a system based on a simple Internet camera and computer to monitor and analyze changes in skin moles to help determine malignancy, shared the top prize in Intel-Israel's 11th annual Young Scientists Competition with a youth who studied cell processes. The contest was held at Jerusalem's Bloomfield Science Museum, and the top prizes were announced Wednesday evening by President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi. Hai-El Rader and Yogev Orenstein of the Ma'ayan Educational Center at Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh invented the skin cancer diagnostics system, which was called by the judges' panel a "breakthrough that will constitute a significant advance in the field. It could lead to the future development of more complex systems to diagnose additional skin disorders." The system's camera and computer track changes in the size, color, and shape of a mole that can indicate melanoma. The practical application minimizes diagnostic errors and sounds an alarm when the photos show a likelihood that the mole is cancerous. Yigal Nazar of Rishon Lezion's Reali Gymnasia tied for first prize for his work on the connection between polyamines - organic compounds having two or more primary amino groups - and cell growth, one of the most basic processes in living things. In his work, Nazar inserted into rat skin cells the gene that expresses "antienzyme inhibitor" (AZL) and monitored the cells' influence on the inhibitor. He found that epidermal growth factor and other substances bring about increased expression of the AZL, which controls the levels of polyamines in the cell. The judges said this could advance the development of safe and specific anti-cancer drugs based on polyamines. The three youths will represent Israel at the International Intel Young Scientists Competition to be held in Atlanta in May, and will also receive university scholarships. Two projects shared second prize. One was by Amir Sasson, a pupil at the Ohr Torah Stone Yeshiva in Jerusalem, who looked into "The Constitutional Revolution" and examined the drafting of yeshiva students and the "Who is a Jew" question. The second was by Yaniv Sadeh of Jerusalem's High School for the Sciences and Arts, who investigated synthesis through models of neural networks. Three projects shared the third prize. Inbal Fleisher, Alon Gelbar and Ro'i Shahar of the Sharett High School in Netanya developed a computerized system to diagnose and treat pressure sores in hospitalized patients using mathematical processing of 3-D photos by two cameras. Yuri Rozansky, a soldier who graduated from the ORT College in Jerusalem's Givat Ram, studied black holes. And Doron Levin, a pupil at the Amir School in Beersheba, examined the phenomenon of coherence in quantum physics. Six other projects won citations of merit. Sixty-seven high school pupils were finalists in the competition. On Tuesday, they nervously stood in front of senior professors to present their 40 projects to the panel of judges, headed by Prof. Hanoch Guttfreund, a former president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and today a researcher at HU's Rakah Institute of Physics. The quality of the entries - in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, history, social sciences, technology, computer sciences, life sciences and the environment - seems to rise every year, said Yitzhak Ohayon, director-general of Intel's Jerusalem plant as he visited the museum. Ohayon told The Jerusalem Post that the finalists, who competed against hundreds of other teenagers, produced very credible and innovative projects and that being a member of the judges' panel was "one of the most pleasant obligations of my job. These pupils are motivated to solve some of society's problems."