A 17 year old from west Yorkshire has built a DNA testing machine in his bedroom and won a prestigious award.
Fred Turner, 17, from Yorkshire built the3 the polymerase chain reaction machine from items he found at home old video player to see if his brother had the mutated gene that causes ginger hair. His Experiment was a success and proved why his brother is ginger and he is not.
With Fred’s straight brown hair and Gus’s curly ginger locks, the teasing the Turner brothers got from their friends was predictable.
After putting up with endless jokes about the boys having different fathers, 17-year-old Fred settled the matter once and for all – by designing his very own DNA testing machine.
The machine, known as a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine, cost Fred just £250 to build – compared to the £3,000 he would have had to pay out for a new one. He got the idea after reading about a similar one built by a man in America.
Fred describes the device, which would cost £3,000 to buy new, as a ‘DNA photocopier’. It amplifies the DNA strands so they can be analysed in a lab.
The theory is that red hair appears in people with a mutated gene. They have two copies of a recessive gene which causes a mutation in the MC1R protein in DNA.
Once he had built the machine, Fred collected cells from the inside of his brother’s cheek with a swab, then released the DNA from these cells by heating them to 95C in a solution
Next, the DNA was added to an enzyme and a primer and put in the machine for a two-hour cycle.
Finally he sent the sample to a lab. Analysis there showed that Gus’s DNA did have the ginger mutation in its sequencing code.
Fred fitted in his work on the machine alongside studying for A-levels in biology, maths, further maths, physics and chemistry.
He has now been named UK Young Engineer of the Year, with celebrity judge Ben Miller praising him for his ‘outstanding project’ and earned him a top engineering prize – and a place to study biochemistry at Oxford.