Wool’s cool for compression


New Zealand merino products have won an international medical design award in the United States:

Christchurch based The Merino Company and Mt Maunganui based product development company, Locus Research, have scored a major international win with a Medical Design Excellence Award (MDEA) announced in the United States for their innovative range of merino wool compression garments designed and developed in New Zealand.

The Medical Design Excellence awards . . . recognise the achievements of medical product manufacturers, engineers, designers and clinicians who are responsible for groundbreaking innovations that “change the face of healthcare”.

The compression garments, ‘Encircle Compression Therapy’, were developed for The Merino Company (TMC) by a crack Kiwi team led by Locus Research, partnered with the AgResearch Textiles Group and the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand. Professor Richard Beasley, director of the MRINZ, who is an internationally recognised respiratory physician led the research team which tested the garments.

The Encircle products use textiles made by Levana in Levin (the company is part of TMC).

Compression bandages which have been used to treat chronic venous disease until now have been synthetic. They’ve been difficult to apply, seldom reused and often contribute to skin infection.

Encircle garments are composed of an innovative proprietary material made up of two fibres. The first is merino, which is composed of keratin, also found in the outer layer of the human skin and the second, Thermacool, is an elastane polyester which can channel out moisture from the skin. Merino and Thermacool were weft-knitted into a new structure whereby the merino is placed on the inside for next-to-skin comfort. The result is a comfortable garment that creates a micro environment around the skin to assist and regulate the skin or wound environment. Unlike other existing therapies, Encircle garments are convenient for wearers – the knee high garments can be pulled on, and zipped up, rather like a snug sock. The garments can be purchased in three pressure grades from light to firm. . .

Production of Encircle is already underway, with significant order already produced for the Australian pharmacy market, through pharmacy distributors, Symbion Pharmacy Services, and TMC is also working with medical distributors in New Zealand, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. . .

Bythe Rees-Jones, lead designer for the Encircle project for Locus Research, said merino derived products were already being used in a variety of medical products, such as keratin protein and lanolin, but the team believed merino could offer significant therapeutic advantages for sufferers of CVD conditions when merely used as a fibre, as it has unique moisture absorbent, antibacterial, antimicrobial and odour-inhibiting properties.

Rees-Jones praises the other researchers in the Encircle team such as Dr Stewart Collie, from the AgResearch Textiles Group for “his amazing knowledge of textile science”.

Merino is my favourite fabric and it’s rare I don’t wear at least one item of clothing made from it.

In summer I wear merino tee shirts – they’re cool when it’s hot, don’t get cold if they get wet and don’t get smelly when the wearer sweats.

As the season changes and weather cools I opt for longer sleeves and add extra merino layers until I’m warm enough for the worst of winter.

The fibre has proved itself in work and fashion wear it’s great to see it now has a use in the treatment of health problems.

Encircle is a wonderful example of the potential for diversification into “farmaceuticals” which will add value to New Zealand’s primary produce and the wider economy.

Hat tip: RadioNZ

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