Teenager Invents Life-Saving Sutures

Anywhere from 2% to 5% of surgical incisions and other stitched-up lacerations get infected, and that can be life-threatening. That’s because patients may not know that their wounds are infected until they see signs like redness or experience pain. In 2019, Iowa teenager Dasia Taylor came up with a solution to that problem. Taylor, 17 at the time, was a high school student participating in a science talent search. Her invention was a suture thread used for medical stitches that changes colors from bright red when the wound is healthy to dark purple when an infection is present. Healthy human skin is naturally acidic, with a pH around 5. However, when a wound becomes infected, its pH goes up to about 9. Remembering that fruits and vegetables are natural indicators that change color at different pH levels, Taylor experimented and found that bright red beet juice turns dark purple at a pH of 9. Next, Taylor had to find a material that would hold on to the dye, while not being too thick to use as a suture. After experimenting, she found that a cotton-polyester blend could change color in minutes of picking up a change in pH and was also thin enough to be used in sutures. Today, Taylor attends University of Iowa, where she is working towards a political science degree. She also plans to go to law school after she finishes her undergraduate degree.