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Purdue professor hopes space pants can help patients with a painful leg disease

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind - A Purdue University professor is working on a treatment that's literally out of this world.

He's using space pants worn by astronauts to help people with poor blood flow in the legs that makes it painful to walk. The patients suffer from Peripheral Artery Disease, meaning they have poor blood circulation to the legs and walking or exercising is limited.

Bruno Roseguini, an assistant professor in Health and Kinesiology at Purdue, wants to give those patients relief through pants used by astronauts to regulate their body temperature in space.

"We have this tubing that couples to a portable pump. The pump is circulating warm water in the tubing and the tubing is in contact with the skin producing increases in skin temperature," Roseguini said.

Christine Burke used to love to pound the pavement until peripheral artery disease slowed her down.

"I used to be a walker. I would power walk two or three miles a day. And I noticed one day it felt like I had a charlie horse," Burke said.

Six surgeries later to replace the arteries in her legs and still no long term relief. Burke just completed the clinical trial where patients came in three times a week and wore the pants for 90 minutes.

An initial study found a single session of leg heating increased blood flow to the legs and reduced blood pressure.

"We hope that repeated exposure to this therapy and repeated increases in blood flow to the leg coupled with the reduction in blood pressure will lead to sustained improvement in vascular function in the leg," Roseguini said.

The goal is to give patients long term relief so they're able to walk and exercise longer without pain since exercising is the go to treatment for pad. Burke is hopeful the space pants will be just what she's been missing.

"They will find it does provide relief to people like me who don't have any more options and that they would develop something you can use at home," she said.

The team says the goal is to make the space pants available for patients to use at home. The clinical trial is ongoing to determine just how long these patients will see improvement after the treatment.