Teenage scientist builds DNA machine to find out why his brother has ginger hair
He was determined to find a scientific explanation for the fact that his locks are straight and brown while his brother has ginger curls
A teenager has won a top science award after he built a DNA testing machine – to discover why his brother has red hair but he does not.
Fred Turner, 17, was determined to find a scientific explanation for the fact that his locks are straight and brown while 14-year-old Gus has ginger curls.
So he spent almost a year building the complex equipment – called a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine – using bits and bobs he found around his home, including an old video recorder.
His ingenuity impressed scientists so much, he has now been crowned UK Young Engineer of the Year.
He has also been getting calls from scientific researchers eager to use his home-made machine.
A commercial model would cost £3,000, but Fred built his in his bed- room for £450.
He said: “After years of jokes from friends saying me and Gus had diff- erent dads, I built the machine to test once and for all why he’s ginger and I’m not. The theory is red hair appears in people with a mutated gene.
“I collected DNA from my brother’s cheek using a swab. The machine makes copies of this DNA so you can test how it reacts under different temperatures.
“Heating and cooling the sample allows you to separate the DNA, so I was able to see if mine was different to his.
“I discovered Gus does have the mutated gene which explains why he’s ginger and I’m not.”
Fred, of Brighouse, West Yorks, managed to fit in working on his “DNA photocopier” with a part-time job as well as his studies for five A-levels.
He said: “At home the only tools I had were a drill, a saw and a file, so it looked a bit rough around the edges.
"But in the end I was just pleased that it worked.”
The young inventor was inspired by his parents – account manager mum Louise, 49, and businessman dad David, 50.
Fred said: “They both took me to science museums when I was younger. They’ve always encouraged my interests.”
His passion for science will continue at Oxford University, where he’ll be studying biochemistry in September.
He said: “I’m not sure where I’ll be in 10 years, but I’d like to run my own technology business.”
Redhead capital of the world is Scotland – 13% of Scots are ginger against just 4% in Western Europe as a whole.
Red hair is caused by a recessive gene on chromosome 16 and has high levels of pigment pheomelanin.
The MC1R variant gene is also linked to freckles.