U.S. Military Wants to Freeze Soldiers in Suspended Animation in Order to Save Their Lives

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, more commonly known as DARPA, wants to “freeze” soldiers on the battlefield in an effort to increase the chance of saving their lives. The program, called Biostasis, aims to slow down a person’s bodily functions in order to put them into a state of suspended animation. This would give doctors more time to address traumatic brain injuries. DARPA is part of the U.S. Department of Defense and is focused on creating new technologies for the military.  

Life is maintained through a series of continuous biochemical reactions that run everything from metabolism to cell growth and decay. These chemical reactions control the rate at which an injury progresses. The Biostatis project aims to “slow down” the molecular mechanics in our body in order to extend the timeframe in which a patient can be successfully treated, Phys.org reported. Although not yet perfected, military researchers are trying to control biological catalysts, or the molecules and proteins that start these reactions, so that everything happening in our bodies takes longer, Homeland Preparedness News.

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In the case of trauma patients, there is often a “window of opportunity” during which a patient benefits the most from treatment. Brain injury patients also respond best when treated within this window of opportunity and, according to Homeland Preparedness News, these are the current patient targets of Biostasis technology.

03_06_military Military doctors may have more help saving lives. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In theory, slowing down the body’s biochemical reactions would extend this window. The process is modeled after a number of animals who are able to naturally slow down bodily functions in order to survive extreme elements. For example, tardigrades are able to bring all metabolic processes to a near stop without actually dying.

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Of course, in humans slowing down the body does not come without its own set of risks. For example, this could lead to significant cellular and tissue damage to the patient. Scientists are working now to ensure this does not occur.

“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate,” said Tristan McClure-Begley, Biostasis program manager, Homeland Preparedness News reported, “so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off.”