DARPA looks to slow biological time to save lives on the battlefield

DARPA hopes to reduces casualties on the battlefield by interfering with the body's molecular processes
DARPA hopes to reduces casualties on the battlefield by interfering with the body's molecular processes(Credit: EvgeniyShkolenko/Depositphotos)

That time is of the essence when it comes to critical injuries on the battlefield won't be news to many, but how DARPA plans to manipulate it to keep casualties to a minimum will be. The agency is kicking off a new research program aiming to explore how molecular biology could be used to slow the speed of living systems, thereby extending the window for treatment after a traumatic injury and increasing the wounded's chances of survival.

DARPA has dubbed the venture the Biostasis program, and it might sound improbably futuristic, but alongside the agency's ambitions to turn plants into surveillance sensors, develop guided sniper bullets that change paths after being fired, and build unhackable computer systems, it doesn't seem all that out of place.

In its favor is the fact that similar processes can be found in nature, namely in the tardigrade and wood frog. These animals can enter a state of cryptobiosis, a kind of suspended animation that enables them to endure the harshest of conditions. For wood frogs, this includes an ability to be frozen solid for days at a time, before thawing out and resuming their regular lives.