Thermoregulated Gloves to Help People with Raynaud’s Disease Regulate Temperature

Jessica Bishop explains how the magic gloves work. The gloves are a thermoregulated device for extremities affected by Raynaud’s disease.(Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University)

Whenever Jessica L. Bishop underwent an attack of Raynaud’s disease while she pursued her senior year at Virginia Commonwealth University, she was motivated to work harder to design a pair of “magic gloves” as part of her School of Engineering Capstone Design project.

Raynaud’s disease affects extremities, so it becomes difficult for a person to tell when his or her hands get cold amidst other symptoms. As a remedy, the gloves help to regulate the fingers’ temperature.

It’s something I’m very passionate about. It’s something that definitely affects me. There’s a slew of medications that they can put you on, like blood pressure medication, [but] there’s nothing specific to the Raynaud’s. It’s really just remedying the symptoms [by] wearing gloves, avoiding cold, avoiding stressors. Not drinking a lot of coffee.

Jessica L. Bishop, Virginia Commonwealth University

One of the team members of Bishop’s Capstone, T. Ryan Beaver stated that normally blood flows from the heart to all other parts of the body, and helps the body remain warm.

“This disease attacks the path that blood flows on and constricts it so the blood can’t keep flowing, so your fingers and toes don’t warm,” he said.

Beaver stated that, a person who is not affected by Raynaud’s disease can easily tell if their toes or fingers are abnormally cold as they will ache. If it does not ache, a person will not be able to discover if the temperatures are reaching a danger point, potentially leading to frostbite or damaged tissues.

After the impact of the attack is over, blood resumes its flow, and the person starts experiencing the pain.

Frostbite can happen really quickly, again without the person knowing. Other tissue damages can lead to amputation and infection. A lot of nasty things.

T. Ryan Beaver, Virginia Commonwealth University

The magic glove, known as “thermoregulated device for extremities affected by Raynaud’s disease,” has a special fiber sewed into it and heats up on application of electricity. In the glove’s fingertips, a controller with a thermometer is fixed.

If the temperatures reach dangerous levels, one of the two heaters is turned on by the controller. The wearer is kept at safe temperature by a low-powered heater.

When the temperature reduces below that, the high-powered heater starts functioning. If the temperature increases too much, the heater goes off so that the person wearing it does not sweat.

Like other equipment, it could be expected that the glove is very heavy, which harms its flexibility for heat. Team member Alisa Sverdlov explained that this is not so.

She stated that people can experience dexterity even if the gloves are worn while working indoors (working at a computer). This is because the inner layer of the gloves is removable from the outer layer.

This glove would be beneficial to a person who spends time in the cold. Sverdlov wishes to use these gloves in such an environment as she finds it difficult to type in cold offices.

Mohamed Gad-el-Hak, Ph.D., says that he finds it amusing to assist the project as a faculty adviser.

What attracted me to the project is Jessica’s positive attitude about channeling a personal adversity into doing something to help all of humanity. Students like that is what makes it all worthwhile, not to mention life worth living.

Mohamed Gad-el-hak, Retired Inez Caudill Eminent Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University

At the age of 14, Bishop was diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease. Over the years, the disease became consistently terrible and worse in winters. Initially, she avoided the awful effects of cold feet and hands.

“Then they started turning white. And then [they] started hurting,” she said. “And every year it would get worse and worse. It’s in your autoimmune system, so when you’re exposed to cold or stress, your arteries actually constrict and the blood flow doesn’t get to your hands. That causes nerve damage.”

In addition to all of the dangers posed by the disease, Bishop also finds it difficult to explain when she is “Raynauding” since the disease is invisible.

“It’s so uncomfortable and you can’t explain that to someone else,” she said. “It really takes mental focus keeping that separate from your life.”

Beaver told that, although there are many heated gloves, none of them work as efficient as VCU’s. A provisional patent has been issued to the University for the Magic Gloves. The University has also appealed for a private sponsor to obtain a permanent patent.

“We’ve compared our glove to the industry-leading glove right now, which isn’t as smart as ours,” Beaver said. “[Ours] stays 10 degrees warmer while maintaining a longer battery life.

Bishop stated that, many of the gloves that are available in the market do not heat the back of the hand completely. Pointing at a $300 glove that she wore, she stated that it was not comfortable to use it in the lab as it was bulky and made her hands sweat profusely.

“It gets so hot and there’s no regulation,” she said. “It’s just the heating glove where ours actually registers and regulates [temperature].”

Video Credit: VCUSchoolofEngr/Youtube.com

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