Sometimes the difference between life and death is a matter of time. For injured soldiers in the field, the minutes that pass before a medic can treat them can make all the difference. That’s why DARPA is looking into ways to slow biological time in order to give medics an extra advantage in the battle to save lives.
We can learn a lot from life around us. For instance, some organisms like tardigrades can essentially suspend animation when conditions are hostile to life. DARPA wants to tap into that ability to do something similar for soldiers. The trick is to figure out how to slow down every cellular process concurrently, and how to return everything back to normal without doing any damage.
According to DARPA, “When a Service member suffers a traumatic injury or acute infection, the time from event to first medical treatment is usually the single most significant factor in determining the outcome between saving a life or not.” To tackle that problem, DARPA just launched a 5-year Biostasis program that is developing biochemicals that can help slow down cellular activity so that medics can provide help before vital systems start shutting down. It’s still in the early stages, but if they can develop a viable technology, it could not only save soldiers’ lives, but it could have massive implications for medical science as a whole.
“Nature is a source of inspiration,” program manager Dr. Tristan McClure-Begley said. “If we can figure out the best ways to bolster other biological systems and make them less likely to enter a runaway downward spiral after being damaged, then we will have made a significant addition to the biology toolbox.”