14-Year-Old Is Named “America’s Top Young Scientist” for Developing Soap To Treat Skin Cancer

Heman Bekele

Given that cancer is one of the deadliest diseases out there, any new development in our fight against it is highly commendable. The latest breakthrough was made by Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old student from Annandale, Virginia. The student has created a bar soap to treat melanoma, the most common kind of skin cancer. Now, his findings have earned him the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.

“I made this soap by fusing regular medicinal soap with a 50/30/20 ratio of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and tretinoin, which are all keratolytic agents that slowly reactivate dendritic cells,” Bekele said during his presentation at the 3M Young Scientist Challenge. “After the Melanoma Treating Soap (MTS) is used, the soap releases toll-like receptors into your skin. These receptors latch onto dendritic cells which reactivate them. The now reactivated dendritic cells then join with TN io12 cells to fight infected HPV cells.”

Rather than a cure, Bekele's soap aims to help the patient's immune cells stay active while fighting melanoma. While similar remedies are available for skin cancer treatments, the boy decided to work on a more affordable alternative, especially for those in developing countries. For now, the product is very promising on paper, but studies would have to be carried out to test its efficiency in the real world.

Bekele, who competed against nine other youth-led projects, was paired with a mentor. Deborah Isabelle, a product engineering specialist and expert in abrasives, helped him develop his concept into a prototype and guided him through a series of challenges, which included a presentation of their creation. Among the other projects in the competition were a glove to detect epilepsy and an affordable electronic braille display device.

As a winner, Bekele was awarded a $25,000 cash prize. For now, the young scientist hopes to refine his invention and create a non-profit to distribute the MTS among those who need it the most.

“I applied for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge because I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world,” Bukele said. “I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas. The opportunity to work with 3M mentors and show my project to a panel of judges was an exciting prospect. I am passionate about finding sustainable solutions to global problems, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.”

Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old student, developed a soap that can help treat skin cancer.

Heman Bekele with 3M executives

“I made this soap by fusing regular medicinal soap with a 50/30/20 ratio of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and tretinoin, which are all keratolytic agents that slowly reactivate dendritic cells.”

Heman Bekele with 3M executives

Young Scientist Lab: Website
h/t: [IFL Science]

All images via 3M.

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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