A 17-year-old high school student and finalist in a national science competition has come up with an impressive invention she hopes can save lives, particularly in developing countries. Dasia Taylor of Iowa City, Iowa, had read about "smart" sutures coated with a conductive material that can relay changes in a wound to smartphones and computers, reports Smithsonian. The problem, as Dasia saw it, was that those pricey sutures weren't likely to be accessible to people in low- and middle-income countries, where surgical site infections are typically more common and more deadly, per the Washington Post. When her chemistry teacher spoke about a state-wide science fair in October 2019, Dasia set to work making her own sutures that would register changes in pH levels without electronics. The key: beets.
Human skin has a pH around 5 but that increases to 9 with an infection. As Dasia came to discover, beet juice is bright red at a pH of 5, but turns dark purple at a pH of 9. That meant that a suture thread holding beet juice dye should change color at the appearance of an infection. Tests using a cotton-polyester blend of thread proved Dasia's theory. In five minutes under a pH of 9, the sutures turned dark purple. After three days, they faded to light gray. Dasia not only "dominated" the state-wide competition but was named one of 40 national finalists in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search, per the Post. More research is needed to translate the idea into practical use. Standard sutures, for example, are non-absorbent to keep bacteria out. But Dasia isn't deterred and plans to patent her invention. (Read more inventions stories.)