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Samuel Achilefu- The Nigerian who Invented the Cancer-seeing Goggles.

“I thought, what if we create something that let’s you see things that aren’t available to the ordinary human eye.”

Samuel Achilefu

Well isn’t this what innovation is about? Seeing things not everyone sees and creating things not everyone thought was possible.

And so Samuel Achilefu thought, what if?

The very words that gave wings to his dreams and ignited hope in him, to pursue his dream and passion with every fiber of his being.

Achilefu thought, what if it was possible to change the world? What if he was gifted with all it takes to make the change, to lift the sorrows of many and restore hope to ailing hearts?

In his years of practice, he has watched cancer snatch people from their loved ones and inflict untold hardships on families. He was also concerned with the frustration of surgeons who often experience difficulties while trying to remove every remnant of a patient’s cancerous tumor.  He understood that even under high magnification, it’s almost impossible for surgeons to tell exactly where a cancer tumor ends and healthy tissue begins.

Often times, to make sure they remove all the cancerous cells, surgeons remove the tumor and neighboring tissue and the samples are sent to a lab and viewed under a microscope. And where the surrounding tissue is found to contain cancer cells, a second surgery is performed to remove even more tissue. According to research, among breast cancer patients, about 20 to 25 percent who have cancerous lumps removed require a second surgery.

Samuel Achilefu

And so he thought, what if?

What if he is the solution the world has been waiting for? What if he creates something that let’s surgeons see things that aren’t available to the ordinary human eye?

And so, he began his research into the eyewear, using funds from the Washington university and the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. He assembled a team that included engineers and video game specialists to further refine the glasses. After successfully using the technology in rodents, his team received a $2.8 million federal grant in 2012, paving the way for use in patients.

According to Bloomberg business week, the researchers’ technology uses two processes: First, surgeons inject a small quantity of an infrared fluorescent marker into the patient’s bloodstream. The peptides contained in the marker enables it to locate cancer cells and buries itself inside.

After the tracer flows through a patient’s body and clears from non-cancerous tissue – which lasts about four hours – the operation would begin. Wearing the goggle, the doctor can inspect and locate tumours under an infra red light that reacts with the dye, causing cancer cells to glow from within.

The glasses were used for the first time during a breast cancer operation last year at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and have since been used on more than two dozen people with breast cancer, melanoma or liver cancer.

In 2014, Dr. Achilefu won the year’s St Louis award, making the 87th person to receive the annual award since it was established in 1931. An annual award founded by philanthropist and shoe company owner David P. Wohl to recognize a St. Louis area resident who “performed such a service as to bring greatest honor to the community.”

Samuel Achilefu cancer googles

The shining star also won a scholarship from the French government to study at the University of Nancy where he excelled and went on to earn his post-doctoral degree at Oxford University.

He is married with two lovely children.

And now to you friend, what if you have all it takes to change Africa’s narrative? What if, you are the solution that the world has been waiting for? What if……Think on these.

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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