By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis teenager will soon be among the greatest minds on the planet.

She’s going to be part of Nobel Week 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Sarah Betts, 17, is a student at Visitation in Mendota Heights. She is one of 25 students selected from around the world to get a scholarship to spend the week studying with laureates.

You’d never know if you heard Sarah play the violin, but her hands aren’t well. Sarah realized it in the fifth grade.

“My joints were a lot more swollen, that was the main indicator and I was just getting sick all the time,” Betts said.

arthritis violin Minneapolis Teens Violin Invention Gets Her Invite To Nobel Week

(credit: CBS)

Sarah has Rheumatoid arthritis. The autoimmune disease affects joints, and increases with age.

She started playing violin when she was 3, so she wasn’t going to stop.  And suddenly the pain began to ease.

“One violin lesson I noticed my left hand was a lot less painful and a lot less swollen than my right hand, I was trying to figure out why. I ended up thinking it was due to my left hand moves and exercises, well, pressing down on the violin strings more than my right hand that holds the bow and really doesn’t do much. I decided to test this hypothesis and invented, started designing a lot of prototypes based on the violin that anyone could use,” Betts said.

She invented the ViEx, a device that uses recycled violin strings to exercise the fingers. She started testing it on nursing home patients and elders in her church.

“With my study, 95 percent of my patients showed improved range of motion and grip strength,” Betts said.

A feat that helped her earn a rare scholarship to Nobel Week in Sweden.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the lectures from the Nobel Laureates and hopefully getting to meet most of them,” she said.

Sarah’s teacher, Francie Cutter Sullivan, is excited too.

“When Alfred Nobel established those awards it was to honor people who help other people so to be able to go there. I mean, some day, Sarah may be receiving one,” Sullivan said.

Sarah is also launching a program so that arthritis patients in need who can’t afford medicine, or a therapy, can use the ViEx. It’s already gotten support researchers at the University of Minnesota and occupational therapists.

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