3M Health Care
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    Treatment inspired by nature

    November 01, 2019
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    Treatment inspired by nature

    3M scientists engineered a leading two-layer compression system that mimics the skin of a giraffe to treat venous leg ulcers.

    Treatment inspired by nature

    3M scientists engineered a leading two-layer compression system that mimics the skin of a giraffe to treat venous leg ulcers.

    Treatment inspired by nature

    3M scientists engineered a leading two-layer compression system that mimics the skin of a giraffe to treat venous leg ulcers.

    • Giraffe

      Giraffes are amazing. Did you know that a giraffe's feet are the size of a dinner plate - approximately 12 inches across? Females use their hooves as weapons to protect their young and they are strong enough to kill a lion. Giraffes also have four stomachs to help them digest their food. And did you know that the distance from their legs to their hearts is twice that of humans, requiring much higher blood pressure and putting way more stress on giraffes' veins?

      Due to their incredible height – an average of 15- to 18-feet – the blood vessels in giraffes' lower legs are under great strain because of the weight of fluid pressing down on them. But despite the stress on their veins, giraffes never suffer from swelling or ulcers in their lower legs.

      Scientists are all over this

      They have determined that the giraffe's tough, non-elastic skin works like the anti-gravity suit worn by astronauts, preventing the stagnation of blood in their lower extremities. That inspired scientists at 3M to create a compression system to help treat a painful human medical condition called venous leg ulcers, which are caused by uncontrolled high pressure in the veins of the lower leg. Venous leg ulcers are extremely common in the UK and a Julian Guest study estimates the number of sufferers to be 730,000.

      Human impact

      Scientists at 3M figured out that the giraffe's thick and tight skin functions like nature's best compression bandage, and they created a material that reproduces the properties of this skin to help humans. They took the elastic wraps we use when we sprain our ankles or wrists, and modified the material to engineer a leading two-layer compression system that mimics the skin of a giraffe.

      Scientists are amazing, too

      Find out more about Compression Therapy