Radical New Medicine coming from DARPA

Wired reports on five DARPA medical projects

1. Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics

Darpa researchers will try to build quick-and-dirty portable machines that can measure specific markers of disease in the blood. They’ll also work on developing unique molecular techniques by which they can quickly spot and analyze newly evolved markers.

Other uses for the $25 million invested in the project include finding new methods to prepare and store patient samples (like blood, urine or semen) for field diagnosis and fresh ways to urgently extract chemicals from the blood for analysis.

2. Scaffold-Free Tissue Engineering

Researchers will aim to attach magnetic tags to cells, so cellular materials stay arranged in a specific biological pattern until they can generate natural scaffolds. The final goal in is to create 3-D models of skeletal muscles in space, which show blood-vessel and neuron growth within the artificial tissue.

The project is part of an ongoing effort to push the limits of regenerative tissue medicine by Darpa

3. Dialysis-Like Therapeutics The idea behind the $10 million project is to build an external machine that sucks out the patient’s infected blood and filters it, like a kidney dialysis machine does. The blood-machine will be built to collect 5 liters of human blood at a time, and identify toxic targets. 2012 target – develop unique pathogen sensors that can continuously catch bacterial and viral poisons and use specific separation methods to filter them out.

This work could also be used with other medical research where

* cancer cells can be detected and filtered from the blood.

* More effective cancer fighting white blood cells could be harvested from people with superior immune systems to treat those with immune systems that are more vulnerable to cancer

* T-Cells have been harvested from a persons blood, genetically modified for HIV resistance and then returned to the patient Genetically modifying blood and blood components could be done for other purposes.

4. The Neovision2 project is Darpa’s $43.5 million attempt to give animal abilities to artificial eyes. The program has already designed a vision system that is capable of mimicking the visual pathway in mammals.

5. Tactical Biomedical Technologies is an all-encompassing term for a project with a highly specific aim: to provide emergency medical attention to bleeding soldiers at war. Hemorrhaging caused by land mines and explosives is the leading cause of death for soldiers in the field.

Research in 2010 identified and tested chemicals that clot blood, also known as “hemostatic agents.” It also screened for possible biological tags on wounds and organs that could be used as targets for the healing technologies.

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