News

Pentagon "Zombifying" Pigs to Save Wounded Soldiers

| 11 Dec 2009 14:39
image

In an effort to improve the survival rate of soldiers wounded on the battlefield, a Pentagon-funded project is developing a zombie juice cocktail and testing the results on rats and pigs.

Pop quiz time: What is the leading cause of death during combat amongst members of the U.S. Armed Forces? If you answered "blood loss," you'd be right: Blood loss accounts for almost half of fatalities in action by itself. Tragically, this high percentage of deaths is despite advancements in modern medical science that means blood loss is relatively easy to treat - as long as the injured soldier is treated in time.

If treatment is received during the so-called "golden period" - about an hour after being injured - odds of survival in those suffering from severe blood loss are significantly improved, but after that hour is up, they plummet drastically. In the heat of combat, that sort of rapid evacuation and triage is extremely difficult ... which is why the Pentagon - specifically its superscience branch DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) - is funding research to try to prolong that crucial hour.

The answer, according to teams working on the project, could be to render animals in a near-undeath state of suspended animation. Though one team at Stanford University has been busy researching how humans could mimic the hibernation of squirrels thanks to a pancreatic enzyme our two species have in common, another group at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has been experimenting with a chemical cocktail that uses hydrogen sulfide to block the body's ability to use oxygen, meaning that hearts don't beat and (more importantly) wounds don't bleed.

Team leader Dr. Mark Roth found that the hydrogen sulfide solution was able to keep a rat alive for ten hours after it had lost 60% of its blood - which means the next step is to move on to pigs, which possess a circulatory system more like our own. If the swine can be kept in a state of survival despite heavy blood loss, the next step is federal safety testing, and then - hopefully - real-world application of the zombie juice serum.

While the immediate benefits will be military - soldiers carry syringes of the cocktail into battle, injecting fallen comrades with the stuff in order to induce suspended animation until treatment is carried out and they can be revived - Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies researcher Matthew Miller says the advancement could see practical use well beyond the battlefield. Suspended animation could make it easier to transport organs for transplant, and it could be used to interrupt life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks until treatment could arrive, too.

"Everybody's talking about the military use of this, and that's our focus now ... But really, this could be much, much bigger than that."

How do you say "brains" in oink?

(ABC)

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on