By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A team of sophomores from the University of Maryland have run away with the first place prize in a contest to improve human health.

As Mike Schuh reports, they beat out 40 other college teams from across the country.

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A group of College Park students now have a national prize under their belts.

Their invention is a low-cost tool to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. It includes a headset and software that can identify the specific brain waves produced by the disease.

“Alzheimer’s diagnostics occur maybe two years after these clinical symptoms are presented to a doctor, and by then, these plaques have already developed and the disease is moving from early to middle stage,” says Team captain Dhruv Patel.

They believe their technology could change that. More affordable than an MRI — it might become part of a routine screening in a doctors office, which means an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

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“During a regular check up for patients 55 and older you could take three or four minutes out of a doctor’s office visit and just check yourself up,” says  Christopher Look.

“Alzheimer’s can manifest in your brain up to ten years before any symptoms are shown. If we’re able to diagnose this in the earlier stages, maybe we can send patients to clinical trials so we can accelerate research and try to find an actual treatment,” says teammate Megha Guggari.

The students were inspired by the grandfather of one of the team members, who had the debilitating disease.

That team has won a $20,000 prize and is using some of the money to incorporate and patent its designs, make more headsets, and explore clinical trials.

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