In a new call for research, Darpa is asking for proposals to devise prototype implantable biosensors. Once inserted under a soldier’s skin, Darpa wants the sensors to provide real-time, accurate measurements of “DoD-relevant biomarkers” including stress hormones, like cortisol, and compounds that signal inflammation, like histamine.
Implantable sensors are only the latest of several Pentagon-backed ventures to track a soldier’s health. Darpa’s already looked into tracking “nutritional biomarkers” to evaluate troops’ diets. And as part of the agency’s “Peak Soldier Performance” program, Darpa studied how one’s genes impact physical ability, and tried to manipulate cellular mitochondria to boost the body’s energy levels.
Sensors alone won’t make troops stronger, smarter or more resilient. But they’d probably offer the kind of information that could. For one thing, the sensors would provide military docs an array of reliable info about the health of every single soldier. Plus, they’d tell leaders how a soldier’s body stood up to grueling physical training or a tough deployment. Tracking changes in the body’s endocrine system, for example, might tell a physician that a soldier is increasingly sleep deprived. Or observing chronically increased inflammation levels might tell a team leader that trainee number five isn’t cut out for the Navy SEALs.
Real-time sensors would also solve plenty of problems where warzone medical care is concerned. It’s not easy to take a urine test in the middle of a firefight. Darpa’s solicitation notes that health care often suffers because of “overnight shipping to a centralized laboratory,” and the “collection, processing and handling” that can mar specimens in transit.
Besides, urine samples and blood tests are hardly as personalized as an implanted sensor would be. A system that tracks several biomarkers could offer a robust and real-time analysis of how, say, a soldier’s sleeping patterns or dietary choices affect his or her physical performance.
Read More: Wired