Surgical site infections are a severe concern for patients and healthcare providers alike. These infections can lead to prolonged hospital stays, increased healthcare costs, and sometimes even death. However, a high school student from Iowa City, Dasia Taylor, may have found a solution.
Her research on color-changing sutures has earned her a spot as a finalist in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search. By using beet juice to dye sutures, Taylor’s color-changing technique can detect changes in skin pH levels that indicate the presence of an infection. This innovative approach could revolutionize how surgical site infections are detected and treated.
As per Freethink, Dasia Taylor’s innovative idea involves using beet-juiced sutures that change color in response to changes in pH levels of the skin, which occur early on during infection. Her research has gained her a spot among the 300 finalists in the 80th Regeneron Science Talent Search, a prestigious nationwide competition for high school seniors.
Taylor’s interest in surgical sutures began a few years ago when she received a set of them as a Christmas gift. She aspired to become a surgeon then, which sparked her curiosity about how sutures work. Her interest led her to explore the concept of “smart sutures,” which can detect infections by measuring changes in a wound’s electrical resistance. However, she realized this method might not be practical for patients in developing countries, where surgical infections are more prevalent.
To address this issue, Taylor developed a color-changing suture that takes advantage of the natural pH levels of the skin. Skin pH levels typically hover around 5, but an infection can cause pH to spike. When this happens, Taylor’s beet-juiced sutures change color from red to purple, clearly indicating an infection.
Taylor’s method has several advantages over current methods of detecting infections. First, it is non-invasive, meaning it does not require additional testing or diagnostic equipment. Second, it is easy to use and can be applied in a sterile environment. Finally, it is cost-effective, making it accessible to patients in developing countries who may not have access to expensive diagnostic equipment.
However, developing the color-changing sutures was challenging. The most significant hurdle was finding suitable materials for the sutures. This involved a lengthy process of trial and error in determining the best dye and material that could withstand the rigors of surgery. Additionally, Taylor had to learn how to work in a sterile environment to test the sutures with bacteria provided by Iowa City West.
Despite the challenges, Taylor’s hard work paid off. She won first place in the Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium, a STEM competition sponsored by the Army, Navy, and Air Force, where she was the only black student in the room. Taylor hopes that her color-changing sutures can improve surgical outcomes, especially in developing countries where infections are more prevalent. She believes her work can advance healthcare equity and accessibility, a cause she is passionate about.