Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana hope pants used by astronauts to regulate their body temperature in space can be used to help people with peripheral artery disease. Jane Ross reports.
Special pants used by astronauts in space can help people with a painful leg condition, according to researchers in Indiana. Under their spacesuits, astronauts typically wear a layer of clothing with tubing that circulates cool water around their bodies to regulate their core body temperature. The research team at Purdue University found that if they use warm water instead of cold, the 'space pants' can help patients with peripheral artery disease or PAD -- a painful condition that can cause patients' legs to hurt and cramp while walking. They found a single 90-minute session wearing the pants gave significant benefits to patients with symptomatic PAD. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRUNO ROSEGUINI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN HEALTH AND KINESIOLOGY AT PURDUE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We saw reductions in blood pressure that lasted for more than an hour after the treatment was applied. We saw substantial changes in blood flow to their most symptomatic leg, which is one of the primary goals of this therapy, to restore blood flow to the affected limbs." Based on those initial findings, Roseguini is leading a clinical trial to see if the 'space pants' can provide long-term relief. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRUNO ROSEGUINI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN HEALTH AND KINESIOLOGY AT PURDUE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "So the idea is if you do these repeated bouts of heating, exposures to heat therapy, that those (blood) vessels will become more able to vasodilate during a situation such as exercise. What that means is that there would be more blood flow, more oxygen being delivered to those working muscles and we anticipate that this would prolong the time that they could walk before they feel pain, which would be obviously a major benefit from them in terms of quality of life. They can do more of their regular activities without experiencing pain in their calf muscles." Eventually, the goal is to fit the pants with a small, battery-operated pump, offering PAD patients the hope they could improve their quality of life by using the 'space pants' in their own homes.