Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Restore and Maintain Warfighter Abilities

Relating to the restoration and optimization of human health

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DARPA has selected seven teams of researchers to begin work on the Agency’s Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program, which has as its goal the development of a closed-loop system that treats diseases by modulating the activity of peripheral nerves. The teams will initially pursue a diverse array of research and technological breakthroughs in support of the program’s technical goals. Ultimately, the program envisions a complete system that can be tested in human clinical trials aimed at conditions such as chronic pain, inflammatory disease, post-traumatic stress and other illnesses that may not be responsive to traditional treatments.
A DARPA-funded research team has created a novel neural-recording device that can be implanted into the brain through blood vessels, reducing the need for invasive surgery and the risks associated with breaching the blood-brain barrier. The technology was developed under DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) program, and offers new potential for safely expanding the use of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to treat physical disabilities and neurological disorders.
Zika. Ebola. Dengue. Influenza. Chikungunya. These are but a few among the growing cadre of viruses that today pose serious health threats to U.S. troops, as well as to civilian populations in the United States and around the world. Vaccines exist for but a few of these infectious diseases. And since these viruses have an uncanny ability to mutate and morph as they reproduce inside their hosts, those few vaccines that do exist are quickly outdated, providing little protection against the latest viral strains. That’s why flu vaccine manufacturers, for example, must produce new versions annually, at enormous expense and with variable year-to-year efficacy.
Imagine the workplace during flu season. Some people get sick and display clear symptoms—a warning sign to coworkers to avoid contact and for that individual to stay home. Others are infected, but never or only belatedly exhibit the tell-tale signs of sickness, meaning they can infect coworkers without knowing it. If healthcare professionals had the ability to test in advance whether a person is likely to spread a disease following infection, they could recommend specific measures to treat the person or limit exposure and perhaps keep an outbreak from growing into an epidemic or pandemic.
Soldiers often operate in extreme environments, where they may be exposed to the elements for long periods of time. Standard equipment such as electronics and armor are designed to withstand such stresses, but that is not true for the contents of a medic’s bag. Most medicines, including essential biotherapeutics such as insulin, degrade rapidly when stored outside of specified temperature, humidity, and light conditions. DARPA’s Fold F(x) program aims to develop new classes of rugged, shelf-stable medicines based on non-natural, synthetic polymers that can better withstand extreme conditions in the field. The Agency will hold a workshop next week to describe recent successes and discuss applications with potential collaborators.