This High Schooler Invented Color-Changing Sutures to Detect Infection

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In the country’s oldest science fair, 17-year old high schooler Dasia Taylor submitted a surgical suture that changes colors to warn of possible infections. This invention, aimed at helping surgery patients in Africa detect infections before they become serious, elevated Dasia into the 40 finalists of the national Regeneron Science Talent Search. The sutures are the perfect solution to a problem which Smithsonian Magazine summarizes—where not only are post-surgical infection rates typically higher in Africa, but expensive, smartphone-based infection early warning systems aren’t practical in many African countries where basic cell phones are widely used, but not smartphones. Beginning her project back in 2019 in her chemistry class at Iowa City West High School, the process from theory to practice ended up winning Dasia several regional science fair prizes. Her method uses beetroot, famous as any cook knows for turning everything red and purple. The pH of our skin is acidic and averages at 5, while an infected wound raises that pH to a level of 9, and as it turns out beets change color from candy apple red to deep purple as the pH level of its environment grows.

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