When troops are wounded, time is precious. That’s why the fast-ticking minutes that follow such an event are called the “golden hour.” Get the right care within the right time and you survive. Wrong care or an evac takes too long — you’re dead.
While major efforts across the government push to advance medical technology in the field and speed up the vehicles that carry troops to top treatment, one new effort is trying something even more ambitious — slowing life to save life.
Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently launched a five-year project dubbed “Biostasis.” The program will “leverage molecular biology to develop innovative ways of controlling the speed at which living systems operate.”
By doing that they hope to extend the “golden hour” before it’s too late.
“At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all,” said Tristan McClure-Begley, the Biostasis program manager.
Those catalysts, McClure-Begley said, are proteins and “large molecular machines” that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes.
“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off.”
The program starts small, first by aiming at slowing certain processes within cells, then slowing whole cells and later tissue processes, then onto the entire organism, he said.
But the goal isn’t simply to slow processes down but to do it without damaging the processes when they return to normal speed.