Space technology funded by NASA may help menopausal women experiencing discomfort from hot flashes.
Material that was originally meant for gloves to be worn in outer space is now being used by a company that aims to help those suffering from the episodes that are commonplace at the end of menstruation.
Around 1.3 million women enter menopause each year, with the change in hormones often causing a range of symptoms.
Textile maker Louise Nicholson was seeking a way to provide relief to anyone experiencing these symptoms, but she found most options lacking until she came across a material made possible by NASA funding.
"I did some initial research to find out what was on the market, and there was absolutely nothing apart from nightwear," she said.
In the midst of her research, Nicholson came across a technology called Outlast.
NASA's Johnson Space Center was looking to improve insulation in spacesuit gloves in the 1980s and entered into a contract with Triangle Research and Development Corporation to probe the use of so-called phase change materials.
These materials can maintain a consistent temperature as they change from solid to liquid or vice versa. Triangle scientists were able to embed the phase-changing materials into microcapsules that could then be used as a fabric insert for a spacesuit glove. The gloves never made it to outer space, but another firm known as Outlast Technologies acquired the patent for the material and marketed it under the name Outlast.
By bonding Outlast to cellulosic yarn, Fifty One Apparel's clothing maintains the temperature-regulating properties of phase-change materials but retains the look and feel of high-end fabrics. The initial products included a line of shirts in four styles that were sold to consumers in the London area at events, and now, the firm has jumped into e-commerce to sell a range of designs.