17-year-old high schooler Dasia Taylor has invented sutures that change color upon detecting infection.
Taylor's product is aimed at helping surgery patients in Africa detect infections before they become life-threatening; the sutures landed Dasia in the final 40 students involved in the national Regeneron Science Talent Search.
Post-surgical infection rates are typically higher and more expensive in Africa, and early warning systems that rely on technology like smartphones are impractical in African countries where smartphones are far less common than basic cell phones.
Dasia's sutures use beetroot to determine whether a wound has become infected. Our skin averages at a pH of 5, while an infected wound raises that acidity to a pH of 9. beets change color from red to purple depending on the pH level of their environment.
"I found that beets changed color at the perfect pH point," Taylor said. "That's perfect for an infected wound. And so, I was like, 'Oh, okay. So beets is where it's at it."
She found that a cotton-polyester blend suture was the most effective suture thread.
Dasia's incredible invention won her $25,000 and the Seaborg Award, as well as the honor of speaking on behalf of the Regeneron Science Talent Search Class of 2021.
"I have so much school pride because when somebody in our school does something great, they're celebrated to its fullest extent," Taylor said. "And being able to be one of those kids has been so amazing."