We have concerned ourselves with a largely unknown hereditary illness, which begs the question: Where did our motivation come from?

Precise labeling is a requirement for correct results

The main catalyst for our research was that a fellow student suspected the illness in his family. When we discovered the illness, we were very interested and wanted to learn more. In our search to learn more, we came across a doctor in the area who deals intensively with hemochromatosis and conducts research related to the topic. After contacting Dr. Elmar Aigner, he was prepared to come to our school and give a presentation, which allowed us a closer look into the matter.

Through him and other research, we discovered that some doctors misdiagnose hemochromatosis as alcoholism, due to the condition of the liver. This misdiagnosis can cause considerable distress for the patient.

After speaking with family and friends and discovering that most of them had never even heard of hemochromatosis, it was also apparent to us that people were not well informed. After this eye-opening experience, it wasn’t just about furthering our understanding—we wanted to make others aware of this disease and inform them about methods of prevention and treatment. With the right information, this illness can be recognized and treated.

We found out that we could perform a gene test using PCR, which could determine the existence of hemochromatosis. For this test, one needs a larger amount of blood. Therefore, we asked Dr. Aigner for help, who was up for the task. We carried out the test anonymized and under clean conditions in our own school lab; not to mention, we attracted the attention of several local news stations and the ORF show “Salzburg Today,” which did a report on our project.

Through this report, the company EUROlyser became aware of our project and offered us one of their newly developed machines to test. With this machine, it was possible for us to determine an iron imbalance quickly and easily by means of measuring amounts of ferritin.

Is our project leader scared???

For this test, just a few drops of blood from the fingertip are enough and you can even draw the blood yourself. This way is a little less costly than the PCR gene test, of course.

Always keep a sterile environment when dealing with blood

Not even the teachers could be spared

Such an instrument would be very helpful to doctors and, since a test to check iron levels with a machine such as this isn’t complicated, the test could easily become a part of the standard medical exam.

Mr. Gruber - the specialist as he explains his subject

Right now, hemochromatosis is only examined when a problem is presented. By that time, the disease has progressed enough that irreversible damage is the result.

And, so, this is how our motivation for this topic went from interest and curiosity to informative discussions and tests.