• Monday, April 24, 2017

Neuroscience, National Security & the "War on Terror"

Discussion in 'Military Forum' started by pkpatriotic, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. pkpatriotic

    pkpatriotic SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    2,320
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Ratings:
    +0 / 897 / -0
    e71044c442bb96011f3d72fc06f6e81b.jpg

    by Tom Burghardt
    Operating with little ethical oversight, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been tapping cutting-edge advances in neuroscience, computers and robotics in a quest to build the "perfect warfighter."

    "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). It manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects for DoD, and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions."


    Dovetailing precisely with other projects to "dominate" the urban "battlespace" of global south and "homeland" cities, DARPA researchers are stretching moral boundaries where clear distinctions between "human" and "machine" are being consciously blurred. (see "Simulating Urban Warfare" and "America's Cyborg Warriors")

    As the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics warnsFAQ - Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) | General Info,

    The right of a person to liberty, autonomy, and privacy over his or her own intellect is situated at the core of what it means to be a free person. This principle is what gives life to some of our most well-established and cherished rights. Today, as new drugs and other technologies are being developed for augmenting, monitoring, and manipulating mental processes, it is more important than ever to ensure that our legal system recognizes and protects cognitive liberty as a fundamental right. (CCLE, "Frequently Asked Questions," September 15, 2003)

    Not only is the right to "liberty, autonomy, and privacy" being undermined by militarizing the life sciences, but the legal system itself is ill-equipped to deal with advances--and emerging threats--to "cognitive liberty" as America's corporatist surveillance state seek new means to elicit compliance and control over individuals as biological science is securitized under the rubric of "national security."

    In Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense (Dana Press, 2006), bioethicist Jonathan Moreno lays out a frightening scenario where various Pentagon agencies with DARPA leading the charge, have been funding neuroscientific and biological research in the following areas:

    Mind-machine interfaces, also called "neural prosthetics." Living robots" whose movements can be controlled via brain implants. Research has successfully been carried out on "roborats" and "robodogs" for mine clearing and other dubious purposes. "Cognitive feedback helmets" that provide commanders or their medical surrogates the ability to remotely view an individual soldiers' mental state. MRI and fMRI technologies for what has been called "brain fingerprinting" as an interrogation tool or airport screening for "terrorists." So-called "non-lethal" pulse weapons and other neurodisruptors for deployment in global south or "homeland" cities as "riot control" tools. "Neuroweapons" that use biological agents to stimulate the release of neurotoxins. Research into concocting new pharmaceuticals that inhibit the urge to eat, sleep, suppress fear, or repress psychological inhibitions against killing.

    With a multibillion dollar budget and dozens of projects in the pipeline, DARPA's Defense Sciences Office (DSO) are looking for newer and ever-more insidious means "to harness biology" for military applications. A short list of DSO projects include the following:

    * Biological Sensory Structure Emulation (BioSenSE), a program "designed around the concept of understanding biological sensory structures through advanced characterization and emulating, or transferring, this knowledge to the creation of superior synthetic sensors." The majority of biological stimuli are deemed of "great military relevance" by Darpacrats.

    * Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CTTWS), the intent of which is to integrate "advances in technology and biology" for a "soldier-portable" visual threat detection device that will utilized "cognitive visual processing algorithms" and "operator neural signature detection."

    * Fundamental Laws of Biology (FLB), is described as a mathematical modeling program that "will impact DoD and national security by developing a rational and predictive basis for doing biological research to combat bioterrorism, maintain healthy personnel, and discover new vaccines and medicines"--or to facilitate the design of new biological weapons.

    * Nano Air Vehicle (NAV), described by program managers as as a project that "will develop and demonstrate an extremely small (less than 7.5 cm), ultra-lightweight (less than 10 grams) air vehicle system with the potential to perform indoor and outdoor military missions. The program will explore novel, bio-inspired, conventional and unconventional configurations to provide the warfighter with unprecedented capability for urban mission operations." Paging John Anderton, white courtesy telephone!

    * Neovision "will pursue an integrated approach to the object recognition pathway in the brain. This fundamental biological research will be accomplished using methods intentionally geared toward computational and modeling approaches that are amenable to hardware- and software-based implementations."

    * Peak Soldier Performance (PSP) is designed to "create technologies that allow the warfighter to maintain peak physical and cognitive performance despite the harsh battlefield environment." In other words, develop drugs and nutrients for a "more efficient" soldier.

    * Preventing Sleep Deprivation (PSD) is described as seeking to "enhance operational performance," under harsh conditions. Current approaches "under investigation" include "novel pharmaceuticals that enhance neural transmission, nutraceuticals that promote neurogenesis, cognitive training, and devices such as transcranial magnetic stimulation."

    * Training Superiority (DARWARS), a suite of programs directly tying the military-industrial and entertainment complexes together into a seamless web. DARWARS seeks to provide "continuously available, on-demand, mission-level training for all forces at all echelons. Specifically, the program is developing, in areas of high military importance, new kinds of cognitive training systems that include elements of human-tutor interactions and the emotional involvement of computer games coupled with the feedback of Combat Training Center learning." Continuous "on-demand training anywhere, anytime, for everyone."

    As with all dual-use research conducted by the agency, military relevance trump all other considerations. One need only examine the use of psychological research in the "war on terror" for some very troubling analogies.

    AugCog

    If behavioral psychology was handmaid to the horrors perpetrated at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and CIA transnational "black sites," what new nightmares are in store for humanity when advances in neuroscience, complex computer algorithms and a secretive national security state enter stage (far) right? Let's take a look.

    Amy Kruse, Ph.D., is described on DARPA's website as the creator of the concept of "operational neuroscience," designing programs that "are helping transform neuroscience from a laboratory discipline to one that is doing advanced research to deliver revolutionary capabilities important to our warfighters."

    DSO's "Training and Human Effectiveness" brief claims this suite of programs is "revolutionizing training...for everyone, anywhere, and at any time." Kruse's area of expertise is "AugCog" or augmented cognition, a subset of neuroscientific research seeking models for a "brain-machine interface." Described by the Augmented Cognition International Society (ACI) as

    an emerging field of science that seeks to extend a user's abilities via computational technologies, which are explicitly designed to address bottlenecks, limitations, and biases in cognition and to improve decision making capabilities. The goal of AugCog science and technology is to develop computational methods and neurotech tools that can account for and accommodate information processing bottlenecks inherent in human-system interaction (e.g., limitations in attention, memory, learning, comprehension, visualization abilities, and decision making). ("What is Augmented Cognition?" ACI, no date) [emphasis added]

    According to DARPA's description of the program, Improving Warfighter Information Intake Under Stress (AugCog):

    Military operators must frequently perform cognitively demanding tasks in stressful environments. The AugCog Program has developed technologies to mitigate sensory or cognitive overload and restore operational effectiveness by extending the information management capacity of the warfighter. This is accomplished through closed-loop computational systems that adapt to the state of the warfighter and thereby significantly improve performance.

    The exploitation of human and other biological systems by DARPA raise profoundly troubling questions of how these security-related applications will be used by the United States to achieve global dominance at any and all cost. A recent article in Military Geospatial Technology reveal the technophilic preoccupations that obsess securocrats.

    Imagine a computer that can read human brain waves to assess the lay of the land. It might seem futuristic, but that's what the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [NGA] had partially in mind when they awarded contracts under DARPA's Urban Reasoning and Geospatial Exploitation Technology (URGENT) program. (Cheryl Gerber, "Seeing with Your Brain," Military Geospatial Technology, Vol. 6, Issue 3, June 5, 2008)

    One of URGENT's "prime contractors, major defense grifter Lockheed Martin, call their "approach to the program Object Recognition via Brain-inspired Technology," (ORBIT). In conjunction with DARPA's URGENT program, the AugCog project is based on brain-inspired software that seeks to merge neuroscience with computers to create a technology that promises to deliver "situational awareness" to the "warfighter." But building complex 3-D mapping systems is merely the initial jump-off point for what may come once "brain-inspired" algorithms are "perfected."

    One "product" that currently aids the "warfighter" and "counterterrorist" officials is called Signature Analyst, designed by corporate grifter SPADAC, a McClean, Virginia defense contractor with close ties to the Department of Homeland Security and the the NGA. According to SPADAC's website SPADAC > Home, Signature Analyst

    delivers enhanced objectivity by discerning subtle yet powerful and actionable insights, maximizing likelihood of success. Combining predictive analytics with spatial information as well as human terrain and social networking elements, the solution delivers effective consequence modeling and improved confidence in decisions for a range of global operational and business challenges.

    The program claims it provides "situational awareness" by "finding commonalities" and "relationships" in distinct, seemingly disparate data sources, including past events, as well as "human terrain" and "social networking" information. As we have described previously, Scaleable Social Network Analysis was a data-mining tool designed by DARPA's Total Information Awareness office that worked in tandem with the National Security Agency's illegal spying programs.

    One shudders to imagine what "consequences" DARPA and their corporate "partners" are "modeling." A commercial version of the "product" is in the works. One "benefit" of the Signature Analyst software trumpeted by SPADAC is that will "allow fewer analysts to evaluate more data in less time." Why its the perfect "predictive" tool for the current capitalist downturn!

    Carrying the mechanistic human/machine model a step further, Lockheed Martin and their "partner" Numenta, a California-based software company, are working on applications for the Defense Department. According to Numenta's website, company founder Jeff Hawkins, author of the 2004 book On Intelligence, has "a deep interest in neuroscience and theories of the neocortex." We bet he does!

    Indeed, Hawkins' team has designed a suite of software applications, the Numenta Platform for Intelligent Computing (NuPIC), based on what it calls "hierarchical temporal memory (HTM)," a "computing paradigm" that mimics the structure and function of the human neocortex, the area of the brain that handles high-level thought.

    John Darvill ORBIT's chief investigator described Lockheed's relationship with Numenta to Military Geospatial Technology thusly: "Lockheed has been involved with Numenta technology for two years and is a member of the Numenta Partner Program for technical interchange. We have a collaborative technical relationship with Numenta. We use their technology, modify it and apply it."

    How? According to Numenta CEO Donna Dubinsky, HTM is designed to "be good at what the human brain can do--inference and pattern recognition even in the presence of noise." In a similar fashion, HTM "learns a model of the world" Dubinsky elaborated, "by exposure through its senses. In the same way, our software is self-learning and has to be exposed to the material that it has to learn. So we train the software. For example, we expose it to a lot of tanks so it learns tank-ness."

    And if the software could be applied to an interrogation archetype, will it then "self-learn" how to "model" a sensory deprivation or psychological torture regimen, individually tailored to an "illegal enemy combatant" after it has been "exposed to the material"? Will the software in other words, be exposed "to a lot of torture so it learns torture-ness"?

    Technological dual-use is a slippery slope towards atrocity and unimaginable horror, especially if left in the hands of American militarists.

    Back to the Future

    Here precisely, lies the crux of the problem of exploiting neuroscience and robotics in a quest for newer and ever more insidious military applications. The potential of neurologically interactive technologies to "enhance" human capabilities, indeed to invade the privacy of human thought, and infringe on the independence of our minds for "reasons of state," transform biological/medical research into a subset of weapons development.

    To be sure, science, and in particular the cognitive sciences, have been seduced by the Pentagon and the CIA in the past. The literature on unethical CIA and Army research into quixotic quests for "mind control" over "enemy" agents and "target" populations--MKULTRA and their perverse offspring--are replete with the horror stories of their abused victims. Indeed, MKULTRA became the ideologically-charged basis for current interrogation and torture practices by the CIA, the military and their "outsourced" partners.

    A perusal of the Company's seminal interrogation manuals, KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation and the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983 drew liberally from the most up-to-date cognitive research of its time. Indeed, many of the sources cited in KUBARK and HRE were leading behavioral psychologists and psychiatrists "under contract" to the CIA, as documented by historians and researchers John Marks (The Search for the Manchurian Candidate), Alfred W. McCoy (A Question of Torture) and Christopher Simpson (Science of Coercion).

    Indeed, as Simpson avers in Science of Coercion, the Human Ecology Fund, a CIA cut-out funneling money to prestigious academics such as Albert Biderman, underwrote research on "captivity behavior" and the efficacy "of drugs, electroshock, violence, and other coercive techniques during interrogation of prisoners."

    Fast forward to the present. As anthropologist Hugh Gusterson writes regarding current Pentagon interest in neuroscientific research today,

    individual scientists will tell themselves that, if they don't do the research, someone else will. Research funding will be sufficiently dominated by military grant makers that it will cause some scientists to choose between accepting military funding or giving up their chosen field of research. And the very real dual-use potential of these new technologies (the same brain implant can create a robosoldier or rehabilitate a Parkinson's disease sufferer) will allow scientists to tell themselves that they are "really" working on health technologies to improve the human lot, and the funding just happens to come from the Pentagon. ("The Militarization of Neuroscience," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 April 2007)

    In the final analysis, DARPA, the Pentagon agency that brought us the internet, are now searching for the means to militarize the human mind itself, viewed as the ultimate platform for imperialist domination and social control.

    Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.
     
  2. pkpatriotic

    pkpatriotic SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    2,320
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Ratings:
    +0 / 897 / -0
    Defense research agency seeks to create supersoldiers
    By Bruce Falconer

    Critics maligned the idea as "unbelievably stupid," "bizarre and morbid," and even "an incentive" for someone to actually "commit acts of terrorism." Once members of Congress and the media in July got wind of FutureMAP - a plan by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create online futures markets where traders could speculate in the likelihood of terrorist attacks - it was only a matter of hours before the project was sacrificed on the altar of political damage control.

    But even this, it seems, was too little, too late to appease an outraged Congress: House and Senate appropriations conferees working on the Defense budget have since voted to abolish large portions of the agency's Terrorism Information Awareness program. The program - of which FutureMAP was a small part - was designed to mine private databases for information on terrorist suspects.

    DARPA, meanwhile, soldiers on with the kind of "blue-sky" thinking that is its charge. Indeed, the Pentagon agency that underwrote the development of some of the world's most advanced technologies, such as the Internet, the Global Positioning System, and stealth aircraft, is now looking at technologies that will help U.S. troops soldier on, and on, and on.

    DARPA thinkers are saying that maybe humans themselves need an upgrade. "The human is becoming the weakest link," DARPA warned last year in an unclassified report. "Sustaining and augmenting human performance will have significant impact on Defense missions and systems." A review of the agency's latest budget request reveals a host of projects aimed squarely at making soldiers smarter, tougher, faster, and stronger - in short, superhuman.

    DARPA-funded researchers, for example, have recently begun to crack the brain's neural codes. This research provides glimpses into a future when people will be able to manipulate complicated machinery, or remote-controlled weapons, just by thinking. No touching required.


    In an early success for the two-year, $19 million, Brain Machine Interfaces program, a research team led by Duke University neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis outfitted the brain of a small, South American owl monkey with 100 hair-like sensors. The sensors allowed the researchers to analyze the monkey's neural impulses as the animal manipulated a joystick to match a cursor with a series of lights displayed on a nearby computer screen. The impulses were then converted into code that computers could understand.

    The monkey repeated the motion - only this time, two robotic arms (one in an adjacent room and another 600 miles away in a Boston laboratory) also moved in response to the wireless signals sent straight from the monkey's brain.

    In a similar, more recent experiment, the same scientists taught a macaque to direct a cursor to illuminated targets on a computer monitor. When scientists disabled the joystick, the monkey gradually stopped moving its arm altogether and learned to do the experiment just by thinking. "Our immediate goal is to help a person who has been paralyzed...to operate a wheelchair or a robotic limb," wrote Nicolelis and fellow researcher John K. Chapin in the October 2002 issue of Scientific American. "Someday, the research could also help such a patient regain control over a natural arm or leg, with the aid of wireless communication between implants in the brain and the limb."

    The military implications are also numerous and revolutionary. Imagine, for example, pilots who could fly high-performance fighter aircraft from the ground using only their thoughts, or soldiers who could communicate with one another telepathically, downloading the latest tactical intelligence directly into their brains. Researchers in other parts of the program are even testing the viability of storing human memories on implantable microchips, a Matrix-like advance that would eliminate the need for training by allowing soldiers to upload someone else's technical know-how or combat experience. Without question, such radical advances are still decades away (at the very least). But DARPA's research is already challenging contemporary notions of what is possible.

    Even as some programs concentrate on strengthening the mind, others are focusing on the body. One such DARPA effort - Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation - could transform today's infantry "grunts" into high-tech supersoldiers similar to those imagined by Robert Heinlein's 1959 science-fiction classic Starship Troopers. The $40 million program - already midway through its six-year run - is experimenting with power suits meant to increase by orders of magnitude the toughness and lethality of the average foot soldier. DARPA's plans call for the exoskeleton to be built around a "haptic interface," a series of sensors distributed throughout the suit to read and amplify even the smallest of human muscle movements. According to the agency's Web site, soldiers encased in this futuristic battle armor will be able to "handle more firepower, wear more ballistic protection, carry larger-caliber weapons and more ammunition, and carry supplies greater distances."

    They might also be able to jump to extreme heights and even fly short distances. Peter Parker's "spidey sense" is tingling just thinking about it.

    The exoskeleton research has met with at least a few notable, if modest, successes. At the University of California (Berkeley) Human Engineering Laboratory, a team of researchers has built what might ultimately become the legs of tomorrow's robo-warrior. According to the lab's Web site, the "Lower Extremity Enhancer" gives its owner the "ability to carry weights on the order of 120 pounds over any sort of terrain for extended periods of time without undue effort."

    But even bionic legs may be overshadowed by other exoskeletal advances.

    Another DARPA contractor - a small, California-based outfit called Trek Aerospace - used its $5.1 million federal research grant to develop and test an awkward-looking flying machine that could one day render the term "ground troops" obsolete. The company envisions a one-man rotor-driven craft that could cruise at 60 mph at an altitude of up to 6,300 feet, or could hover over a battlefield for up to an hour and a half.

    Revolutions in brain-machine communication and physical performance would radically change the nature of warfare, but even these technologies would be confined by the natural boundaries of human endurance. After all, war fighting is a tiring business, and armies have always been slowed by the need for sleep. Since World War II, American pilots have relied on stimulants to sustain them through long combat missions. Fighter pilots in the 1991 Gulf War and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were routinely issued "go-pills" (usually about 5 to 10 milligrams of Dexedrine) to be used at their own discretion. But amphetamines, while effective in the short term, have nasty side effects that can seriously impair a pilot's judgment. Just last year, for example, two pill-taking American F-16 pilots nearing the end of a 10-hour mission over Afghanistan dropped laser-guided bombs on a group of Canadian troops that they mistook for a hostile Taliban unit. Four Canadians died and eight were wounded in the incident.

    Avoiding these sorts of accidents while simultaneously prolonging the combat effectiveness of American troops are the animating forces behind DARPA's ongoing effort to break the sleep barrier. The $20 million Continuous Assisted Performance program "is investigating ways to prevent fatigue and enable soldiers to stay awake, alert, and effective for up to seven consecutive days without suffering any deleterious mental or physical effects and without using any of the current generation of stimulants," said DARPA Director Tony Tether last spring in a written statement to the House Government Reform Committee.

    In early investigations, some scientists have shown particular interest in learning how other animal species (such as dolphins, whales, and birds) routinely forgo sleep. Meanwhile, researchers in other parts of the program, such as Yaakov Stern, a neuropsychologist at Columbia University, are exploring ways to stimulate the brain to forestall feelings of fatigue. Stern and his colleagues envision a time when sleep-deprived pilots might be able to "zap" their brains with electronic currents at the push of a button, instantly stimulating key neurons and regaining full alertness by fooling the brain into feeling rested.

    Wading through DARPA's budget request feels like entering an alternate universe, a fantasy world of sorts, where anything and everything is possible. It is, therefore, easy to forget that an estimated 85 percent of DARPA projects end in failure. But that is not necessarily a problem, according to DARPA spokesperson Jan Walker. "Our mission is to look outside of the box, to be revolutionary," she told National Journal. "You can't be revolutionary by being conservative. They're contradictory."

    Dr. Paul Saffo, research director at the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif., agrees. "When you do [DARPA's] kind of work, if you're not failing part of the time, you're not in the right place," he said. "By definition, you've got to be on the ragged edge of chaos, and a significant percentage of your projects have to fail in interesting ways."

    That said, others have wondered whether DARPA doesn't sometimes wander too far off into the realm of "what-if" - such as it did with FutureMAP. The agency's bioresearch programs, for example, could pack a far larger ethical punch than FutureMAP because they raise fundamental questions about what it means to be human. A reader of DARPA's latest budget request easily becomes desensitized to terms such as "human augmentation" and "assisted performance," which, through sheer force of repetition, begin to lose their philosophical complexity. Dr. Steven G. Wax, acting director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office, said that the agency prefers to view such programs in terms of "maintaining the type of capability that the soldier arrives with."

    In other words, research about exoskeletons and sleep deprivation seeks mainly to prevent the degradation of soldiers' natural capabilities in the field.

    But serious moral and ethical concerns about these projects remain. DARPA itself recently invited a bio-ethicist to speak to program managers about issues associated with human augmentation, and Wax says that the agency carefully weighs these concerns when choosing which projects to fund.

    Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists suggests that Congress also has a vital role to play. The Armed Services committees that authorize the agency and the defense appropriations committees that fund it, he said, "need to do some internal self-assessment as to whether they are getting enough information from DARPA and whether they have the internal staff resources to devote to carefully scrutinizing DARPA programs."

    Still, futurists warn against the temptation to become overly cautious. "Human augmentation is coming; the only question is how soon," said Saffo. "This stuff is being worked on in all sorts of places all over the world. I'll give you three options. We can stay in it and be state of the art and deal with the moral issues. We can get out of it completely and be bystanders. Or we can do this half-assed thing in the middle. Now, of those three options, which one do you think is rational?"
     
  3. pkpatriotic

    pkpatriotic SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    2,320
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2008
    Ratings:
    +0 / 897 / -0
    Squishy Sacks of Goo ...
    ... is really all we are. And on the battlefield, there are lots of hot pokey objects that can puncture our squishy sacks, letting out all the goo. To put this problem in more clinical terms: blood loss is the first and most immediate danger to injured troops. Therefore, finding ways of staunching the flow of blood from battered bodies is one of the military medical community's major priorities.

    There's been a lot of advancements on this front in the past couple years, much of it motivated by the high proportion of bleeding limb injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several advancements have been mentioned on this site before. Here's a comprehensive survey:

    * One-handed tourniquets that soldiers can apply in seconds to wounded comrades

    903105d03680d172a97f7503aa8c7129.jpg

    "Approximately 200,000 of these tourniquets have recently been ordered and shipped to theater," says Colonel Robert Vandre from Army Medical Department (AMD). "It is starting to be used now and reports are coming in from our surgeons that they are receiving patients with these tourniquets on damaged limbs."

    * A pair of new bandage designs -- one based on desiccants (like you find in the pockets of new coats) and another on crushed crustaceans -- that encourage rapid clotting of wounds

    Vandre again: "Since the beginning of the Afghanistan conflict, the Department of Defense has fielded two new bandaging technologies for stopping bleeding: the Chitosan Bandage, [made by] Hemcon, and QuickClot, [made by] Z-Medica. The Chitosan bandage is made of shrimp shells and sticks to the wounded area, sealing it off much like a tire patch. The QuickClot is made up of desiccant granules that physically adsorb the liquid from blood, thereby concentrating the clotting factors and encouraging rapid clotting to stop the bleeding."

    * A new medicine, developed by Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA), that helps organs survive temporary blood shortages

    "The focus in this program is using the consequences of blood loss," says DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker. "What we want to be able to do is protect the organs from the impact of oxygen loss and ensure that the wounded soldier can recover fully. What that allows us to do is it gives us more time to get the casualties to a hospital."

    * A sonic blood coagulator, another DARPA project

    Walker: "We have another program that is looking at acoustic energy to stop bleeding -- that is, deep bleeding, not in an extremity, not in some place where you can apply pressure. It's called Deep Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation. It uses sound waves to encourage clotting. It's a device that could be used by a layperson, a medic on the battlefield. It's portable, light and automated."

    DARPA: NO BLOOD? NO PROBLEM!
    A while back, I mentioned a Darpa plan to have soldiers survive major injuries -- despite losing half or more of their blood. In this month's Wired magazine, I've got a short piece on the Darpa project, with a few more details.

    When marine mammals like whales and seals dive deep, they let sections of their bodies go cold, cutting their metabolic rates dramatically. Darpa hopes that drugs or tech might allow soldiers to pull off the same trick - the agency's goal is to enable a *** to survive more than six hours after 60 percent of its blood has been drained.

    Even Darpa managers admit it's far-fetched. Plan B: minimize bloodshed at the source, including spurting arteries. The Deep-Bleeder Acoustic Coagulation project aims to build on the work of researchers at the University of Washington and elsewhere. They're using concentrated, intense sonic blasts to heat the damaged cells. "Focused ultrasound allows a noninvasive method of cauterizing" - without fire or a laser - the scientists say. But these specialized ultrasound machines are big and bulky – and need an expert hand to guide them. Darpa's looking for a portable emitter for combat that doesn't need an expert operator.

    In a recent report, Darpa worried that flesh-and-blood soldiers could become the "weak link" in the military chain. This is one of a bunch of ways the agency is planning to make it stronger.

    * Another clotting agent, Recombinant Activated Factor VII (RFVIIA), developed by AMD

    "Through an extensive collaboration with the Israelis, we promoted the first use of RFVIIA in for the treatment of severe surgical bleeding in trauma patients," Vandre says. "RFVIIA stops bleeding in trauma patients when their own clotting mechanisms are not working properly. As a result of this collaboration, RFVIIA is now being used in major trauma centers throughout the world and has been used on over 400 wounded patients in Iraq. Currently the drug's maker, NovoNordisk, is pursuing clinical trials to gain a trauma indication for this drug with the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA)."

    * New ways of freeze-drying replacement blood to facilitate transport and storage

    "The Army is actively developing freeze-dried plasma and hopes to have a product available within five years," Vandre says. "Plasma is the liquid part of blood which contains the majority of its clotting factors and is highly desirable for early resuscitation of patients. Currently it exists on the battlefield only as frozen plasma and, as such, cannot be given any place but at our field hospitals. DARPA and the Navy have both pursued freeze-dried platelets, another clotting product. The Army has also developed a process to allow red blood cells to be kept refrigerated for up to 12 weeks, which is twice as long as they currently can be stored. We are working now to get funding to push this product through advanced development and FDA certification."

    * A new container, developed by AMD, for transporting perishable replacement blood

    Vandre: "To allow medics to bring blood products far forward on the battlefield, our researchers developed the 'Golden Hour' Blood Transport Container which can keep four bags of red cells at 10�C for 72 hours with no electricity or wet ice. This container is being used in theater on evacuation missions where red blood cells may be of help to the wounded patients."

    The survival rate of troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan is better than ever. Thanks to these technologies and others, even more soldiers will survive their injuries on future battlefields.