After winning a state science fair and becoming a finalist in a national competition, Dasia Taylor now has her sights set on a patent.
17-year-old high school student Dasia Taylor was named one of 40 finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the country’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Now she has her sights set on a patent for her invention: sutures that change colors when they detect infection.
She uses beet juice in her sutures as dye, which changes from bright red to dark red when a surgical wound becomes infected.
She’s solving a very real problem: On average, 11 percent of surgical wounds develop an infection in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization, compared to between 2 and 4 percent of surgeries in the U.S.
Healthy human skin is naturally acidic, with a pH around five. But when a wound becomes infected, its pH goes up to about nine. Changes in pH can be detected without electronics — many fruits and vegetables are natural indicators that change color at different pH levels.
“I found that beets changed color at the perfect pH point,” Taylor said. Bright red beet juice turns dark purple at a pH of nine. “That’s perfect for an infected wound.”
She tested ten different materials, including standard suture thread, for how well they picked up and held the dye, whether the dye changed color when its pH changed, and how their thickness compared to standard suture thread. A cotton-polyester blend checked all the boxes.
She hopes that the color-changing sutures will someday help patients detect surgical site infections as early as possible so that they can seek medical care when it’s most important.