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13-year-old uses 3D printer to help teen with nerve disease play the cello

Brenden Ness, 13, has neuropathy, a condition that affects his ability to properly hold a cello bow. But fellow 13-year-old Mahsa Riar built a device to help him.

ASHBURN, Va. — A Northern Virginia girl recently went out of her way to help a teenager with a disability play the instrument he loves.

Aspiring cellist Brenden Ness, 13, of Loudoun County, has neuropathy, a condition that creates tingling and numbness in his hands and makes it hard to handle his instrument. 

"[Neuropathy] makes it hard to do certain things like hold my bow," he said.

Ness' ring and middle fingers have the tendency to lift off his bow while playing the cello, causing the bow to strike the cello's strings at an improper angle. 

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Laura Readyoff, Ness' cello teacher and the founder of a music education center in Ashburn and Herndon called Music Loft, believed one of her other students could help Ness out, using 3-D printing technology. 

Thirteen-year-old Mahsa Riar, of Loudoun County, is also the CEO of a business called "Limitless Limb." Masha's business uses a 3-D printer to create prosthetic devices for children who have lost one or more of their limbs.

"[Masha] went home to design something very special for his cello so he could actually hold the bow without it slipping out of his hands," Readyoff said.

When Readyoff reached out to her for help, Masha said she decided it was important to provide her assistance.

"I immediately started getting ideas in my head," Masha said. "Like, I could do this or that."

In a month, Masha printed a device to wrap around Ness' bow that locks his middle and ring fingers onto the playing tool.

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Readyoff said Masha's device has improved Ness' ability to perform on his instrument.

"It's just an amazing device that has really changed the way Brenden plays cello," she said.

Ness said he has noticed a difference in his playing ability too.

"I'm grateful," he said. "Very grateful."

Masha's mother, Ferri, said she was not surprised her daughter was willing to help a boy she did not even know.

"I'm really honored that she's become this beautiful girl that wants to help her community," Ferri said.

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