Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Arlington, VA, United States (4E) – The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a “Biostasis Program” aimed at preventing death following traumatic injury (such as gunshot wounds suffered by soldiers) by slowing biochemical reactions inside cells.
Biostasis, which will slow down the biochemical reactions inside cells, will extend the “Golden Hour” for medical intervention. The desired interventions will be effective for only limited durations before the process reverts and biological processes resume at normal speeds.
DARPA launched its Biostasis program to develop new possibilities for extending the Golden Hour, not by improving logistics or battlefield care, but by going after time itself, or how the body manages it. Biostasis will attempt to directly address the need for additional time in continuously operating biological systems faced with catastrophic, life-threatening events such as severe battlefield wounds caused by shrapnel or bullets.
The program will exploit molecular biology to develop new ways of controlling the speed at which living systems operate, thereby extending the window of time following a damaging event before a system collapses. Essentially, the concept aims to slow life to save life.
“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, Biostasis program manager. “Within a cell, these catalysts come in the form of 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 will pursue various approaches to slowing down biochemical processes in living cells. These approaches will scale from simple biological treatments such as antibodies to more holistic treatments applicable to whole cells and tissues, eventually scaling all the way up to the level of a complete organism. Successful approaches will meet the conditions that the system be slowed across all measurable biological functions and that it do so with minimal damage to cellular processes when the system reverts and resumes normal speed.
“Our treatments need to hit every cellular process at close to the same rate, and with the same potency and efficacy,” said McClure-Begley. “We can’t focus treatments to interrupt just a subset of known critical processes.”
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