Due to its incredible height, the distance from a giraffe’s legs to its heart is twice that of humans, raising blood pressure and putting great stress on the veins. Despite this, giraffes never suffer from swelling or ulcers in their lower legs. Scientists have studied this and determined that the giraffe’s tough, non-elastic skin works like the anti-gravity suits 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 United States and affect between 500,000 to two million people annually.
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.