Saving Soldiers With Hibernation

Blood loss from battlefield injuries causes about half of U.S. troop fatalities. DARPA has awarded a $9.9 million contract to Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS), to develop treatments that can give injured war fighters the best chance of surviving massive blood loss.

The institute’s research will be based on previous Darpa-funded efforts. One project, at Stanford University, hypothesized that humans could one day mimic the hibernation abilities of squirrels — who emerge from winter months no worse for wear — using a pancreatic enzyme we have in common with the critters. The other, led by Dr. Mark Roth at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, used nematode worms and rats to test how hydrogen sulfide could block the body’s ability to use oxygen — creating a kind of “suspended animation” where hearts stop beating and wounds don’t bleed. After removing 60 percent of the rat’s blood, Dr. Roth managed to keep the critters alive for 10 hours using his hydrogen sulfide cocktail.

If the research works out, future soldiers might carry a pre-loaded syringe similar to the EpiPen used by people who suffer from life-threatening allergic reactions. The EpiPen contains epinephrine; it is an auto-injector that can be used by people with no medical training.

If the soldier is wounded, he or his fellow soldiers would poke him with the device, which I will call a HiberPen (that's Hibernation Pen, [TM]). The drug takes effect, and the soldier goes into a kind of suspended animation state in which he stops bleeding and loses consciousness.

I'm pretty sure I've read about this idea in sf somewhere before, but I can't think of the exact reference. However, the powered suit with trauma maintenance from Joe Haldeman's 1974 classic The Forever War has many of the same features:

"The suit is set up to save as much of your body as possible. If you lose part of an arm or a leg, one of sixteen razor-sharp irises closes around your limb with the force of a hydraulic press, snipping it off neatly and sealing the suit before you can die of explosive decompression. Then "trauma maintenance" cauterizes the stump, replaces lost blood,and fills you full of happy juice and No-shock. So you will either die happy or, if your comrades go on to win the battle, evntually be carried back up to the ship's aid station."

From Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/11/2009)

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