Scientists at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Genetics are developing a 3D camera that could assist in the early detection of genetic disorders, but they need funding to make the camera a reality.

To do this researchers at the university have launched a crowdfunding campaign through the platform Walacea.

On hearing about the campaign, we were curious as to why the university decided to go with a lesser-known crowdfunding platform and not one of the better-known ones like Kickstarter, or even South Africa’s own Thundafund.

Dr. Vinet Coetzee from the Facial Morphology Research Group which is behind the campaign, told us “Walacea.com is specifically tailored to crowdfund science, while Kickstarter and Thundafund have less of a science focus. I also wanted to venture outside South Africa to obtain funds, since many South Africans are struggling in the current financial climate.”

Help build the camera

The camera the researchers are developing would use 3D imaging software to compare facial features of infants to identify genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome early on.

“How you look is determined in some way by genes, and this is why some genetic conditions can affect the face”, University of Pretoria paediatrician Engela Honey said in a report on Times Live.

The 3D camera would help medical professionals identify subtle clues that hint at a genetic disorder earlier than they are able to now. The camera would also help medical professionals not trained in identifying these clues, to do so.

For example, a flattened nose could be sign that a child has Down’s Syndrome which can lead to heart problems. These heart problems can be corrected through an operation within six months of child birth but after six months some children’s hearts cannot be operated on. Diagnosing the condition at birth could potentially save a lot of lives, then.

Time is short

Pledges for the campaign start at as little as £2 (R47,89) and go up to £2 500 (R59 860,60). The team needs to raise a grand total of R63 300 to build the camera and purchase the software it needs to operate it.

Should the crowdfunding campaign be unsuccessful, Dr. Coetzee has said that the university will run the campaign again before turning to traditional science funding streams. Any funds gained from pledges that surpass the target will be used to train students.

The campaign will close on the 23rd of February.

As Down’s Syndrome affects as many as one in every 476 South African children, this is a crowdfunding intiative that’s well worth getting behind.

[Source – Times Live] [Image CC by 2.0 – Stuart Caie]