Around half of U.S. troop fatalities are caused by blood loss from battlefield injuries. Now, with another 30,000 troops deploying to Afghanistan, the Pentagon is pushing for medical advances that can save more lives during combat. The Defense Department's latest research idea: Stop bleeding injuries by turning pigs into the semi-undead. If it works out, we humans could be the next ones to be zombified.
Military's mad-science arm Darpa has awarded $9.9 million to the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS), to develop treatments that can extend a "golden period" when injured war fighters have the best chance of coming back from massive blood loss. Odds of survival plummet after an hour — during combat, that kind of quick evacuation, triage and treatment is often impossible.
The institute's research will be based on previous Darpa-funded efforts. One project, at Stanford University, hypothesized that humans could one day mimic the hibernation abilities of squirrels — who emerge from winter months no worse for wear — using a pancreatic enzyme we have in common with the critters. The other, led by Dr. Mark Roth at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, used nematode worms and rats to test how hydrogen sulfide could block the body's ability to use oxygen — creating a kind of "suspended animation" where hearts stop beating and wounds don't bleed. After removing 60 percent of the rat's blood, Dr. Roth managed to keep the critters alive for 10 hours using his hydrogen sulfide cocktail.