Isabela Dornelas

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

2023 to 2024
Research Fellow

Follow the Thread: a comparative history of absorbable materials in suture

This research wishes to address the socio-material interactions of absorbable and unabsorbable materials in surgery. I want to collect primary sources from the American context to analyze the issues that arise from producing and marketing absorbable suture materials. This project is part of a larger research focused on developing suture techniques and materials in Brazil that imported all surgical supplies until the mid-20th century. The project aims to trace globally these suture materials' use in medical practice in other countries that produce these materials. The appropriation of animal fibers by the medical practice in the late 19th century decisively impacted the history of internal surgery. The threads made with animal fibers are biocompatible with human tissues; hence, the human body can easily absorb them. The absorption freed surgeons from operating a second time just to remove the stitches, increasing the chance of surgical procedures' success.