Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Instant repairs of injuries on the battlefield

Editor's Note: Yesterday's post was about advances being brought about by the needs of scientists. Today its the needs of the military.

Wired - August 3, 2009, by Katie Drummond

The military wants soldiers who can withstand anything - even the worst and most debilitating wartime injuries. Now Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research team, is trying to make traumatic injuries more like minor scrapes, patched up to be good as new. Or better.

Darpa’s been working on superhuman soldiers for years. They’ve toyed with cellular mitochondria and pondered putting soldiers on the Atkins diet. In 2006, Darpa launched an ambitious Restorative Injury Repair program, that aims to “fully repair” body parts damaged by traumatic injury.

Earlier this year, researchers funded by that program generated new human muscle that could replace damaged tissue. Now Darpa’s asking for a device that can use adult stem cells for a regenerative free-for-all, pumping out whatever needed to repair injured body parts, including nerves, bone and skin. Already, research has proven that adult stem cells can act the same way embryonic ones do - differentiating into the highly-specified cells that form complex body parts.

According to Darpa’s solicitation, 85 percent of recent wartime injuries involved damage to the extremities and facial regions. That often means multiple surgeries, rehab and permanent disability for vets. They’re hoping to eliminate the injuries, and their long-term consequences, with a system that can reproduce in vitro tissues with the same structural and mechanical properties of the real stuff. And maybe make better versions: Darpa wants implanted results that will “replace, restore or improve tissue/organ function.”

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