Can we talk about the raw brilliance of this young lady? 17 Yr Old Dasia Taylor just graduated from Iowa City West High School when she began working on an amazing project in October 2019.
This young lady developed sutures or stitches that change color when it detects infection, she uses root vegetables like beets to create the dye for her stitches.
She was featured in Smithsonian Magazine, sharing that she has juiced about three dozen beets in the last 18 months.
The root vegetables, she’s found, provide the perfect dye for her invention: suture thread that changes color, from bright red to dark purple, when a surgical wound becomes infected.
As any science fair veteran knows, at the core of a successful project is a problem in need of solving.
Taylor had read about sutures coated with a conductive material that can sense the status of a wound by changes in electrical resistance, and relay that information to the smartphones or computers of patients and doctors.
While these “smart” sutures could help in the United States, the expensive tool might be less applicable to people in developing countries, where internet access and mobile technology are sometimes lacking.
And yet the need is there; on average, 11 percent of surgical wounds develop an infection in low- and middle-incoming countries, according to the World Health Organization, compared to between 2 and 4 percent of surgeries in the U.S.
Infections after Cesarean sections particularly caught Taylor’s attention. In some African nations, up to 20 percent of women who give birth by C-section then develop surgical site infections.
Research has also shown that health centers in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi have similar or lower rates of infection, at between 2 and 10 percent, following C-sections than the U.S., where rates range from 8 to 10 percent.
“I’ve done a lot of racial equity work in my community, I’ve been a guest speaker at several conferences,” says Taylor.
“So when I was presented with this opportunity to do research, I couldn’t help but go at it with an equity lens.”
“I found that beets changed color at the perfect pH point,” says Taylor. Bright red beet juice turns dark purple at a pH of nine. “That’s perfect for an infected wound. And so, I was like, ‘Oh, okay. So beets are where it’s at.’”
Working with an eye on equity in global health, 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 has the most impact.
Taylor plans to patent her invention. In the meantime, she’s waiting for her final college admissions results.
Watch her story below:
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