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Teenager Develops Tool That Could Revolutionize Spinal Surgery

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4) - A student from Cherry Creek High School took the top honor at one of the world's largest non-collegiate science fairs. His idea started when he was playing a video game.

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CBS4's Karen Morfitt interviews Krithik Ramesh (credit: CBS)

Sixteen-year-old Krithik Ramesh developed a new system for spinal surgery while playing the game Just Dance.

"It's looking at different points of your body so like your elbows, your arms, your legs that ultimately determines your score," he said.

His attempt to conquer one particular song is the inspiration behind a science project that could change spinal surgery.

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(credit: CBS)

"Shakira's 'Hips Don't Lie,' it's actually a very complicated song and I struggled quite a bit with it. I finally super starred it, I think that propagated most of my research," he laughed.

Trying to improve his score meant diving into the games motion-tracking technology.

"I was wondering as something as dynamic as that could be applied to something as static as radiology," he said.

Currently surgeons use live time x-rays to help navigate the spine. The radiation can be harmful to the body and screw placement is not always accurate.

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(credit: CBS)

Using motion tracking similar to the video game, Ramesh developed a safer and more accurate system for surgeons.

"It can predict the spine bio mechanics for a given patient and then optimize the surgical approach and then guide the surgeon using an augmented reality headset," he said.

He beat out more than 1,500 competitors at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair winning the top prize of $75,000.

It's money he says will go right back into his education.

"I look at like the price tag for tuition, and I realized I probably better put it aside for college," he said with a smile.

Ramesh's idea would of course need lots of testing on actual patients in order to prove it worked better than the system used today. He has one more year of high school and hopes to compete in the fair again next year.

Last year's project earned him a prize of $3,000. He used that money to start the nonprofit, Empowering Rural India Foundation. He used the money to install solar panels on a school where his grandfather received his education, and will continue to support those organizations.

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