Conventional disease treatments such as antibiotics have almost exclusively sought to emulate natural resistance by keeping patients’ pathogen levels as low as possible. This approach has been incredibly successful but has an increasingly serious downside: Any pathogens that survive a particular treatment can defy it from then on, giving rise to new antibiotic-resistant strains. The rising prevalence of multi-drug-resistant pathogens, as well as emerging biological threats, makes developing new medical countermeasures a national security priority.
DARPA’s new Technologies for Host Resilience (THoR) program aims to tackle these issues from a completely different angle. Instead of focusing on how to kill specific pathogens, THoR seeks to catalyze the development of breakthrough interventions that would increase the ability of patients’ own bodies to tolerate a broad range of pathogens. The program will explore the fundamental biology of host tolerance in animal populations with the goal of expanding treatment options for humans in the future.
If THoR is successful, it could provide substantial benefits to warfighter health and military readiness. New treatments would help reduce reliance on antibiotics and complement ongoing efforts both to fight microbes themselves and slow the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
THoR could also help treat life-threatening infections and related illnesses, such as sepsis. A catastrophic overreaction by the immune system to large-scale infection, sepsis afflicts 18 million people a year worldwide and kills between 30 and 50 percent of them. Sepsis poses a significant threat to warfighters who suffer combat injuries that predispose them to infection.
DARPA’s new Technologies for Host Resilience (THoR) program aims to tackle the rising prevalence of multi-drug-resistant pathogens, as well as emerging biological threats. Instead of focusing on how to kill specific pathogens, THoR seeks to catalyze the development of breakthrough interventions that would increase a patient’s ability to tolerate a broad range of pathogens. The program will explore the fundamental biology of host tolerance to infection with the goal of expanding treatment options for humans in the future.
DARPA aims to discover the fundamental biological relationships that underlie host tolerance to infection in animal populations in order to provide the foundational knowledge required to develop interventions for potential transition into clinical use. This program is organized into three Technical Areas (TAs):
1) Identification and characterization of animal hosts with tolerant phenotypes
2) Discovery of biological mechanisms that underlie tolerance; and
3) Identification of interventions that utilize tolerance mechanisms with the goal of reducing morbidity and mortality due to infection.
SOURCES -DARPA, FBO
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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