Thursday, March 15, 2007

Be More

Wired has an article today about the U.S. military's efforts to improve the capabilities of its soldiers. While the article mostly focuses on defense applications, the two main efforts they highlight have applications beyond the military.

One that I found interesting was a device called "the Glove", which is used to help regulate body temperature. Their researchers discovered that muscle fatigue turns out to actually be caused not by the loss of stored sugars, but rather because they overheat. The Glove cools the blood as it circulates, and their tests demonstrate that such a simple act can increase endurance dramatically (one of the researchers demonstrates by doing 600 pull-ups, and the other by doing 1,000 push-ups... on his 60th birthday).

A prototype of the Glove also can be used to warm the blood in frigid conditions, allowing for better regulation of body temperatures in extreme conditions.

The article also highlights research into a method of putting animals (and potentially humans) into stasis for short time periods. In one example, mice were put into stasis in a 5% oxygen environment and drained of 60% of their blood, a situation that should have been instantly fatal. Instead, the mice survived for ten hours or more.

The military's goal for this research, obviously, is to allow soldiers who've been shot to survive long enough for medical care to get to them, especially in an era when smaller units means troops are travelling without medics. But this technology could also be used for treating traumas, and I can foresee a time when all ambulances will be equipped with the necessary gear for putting a patient into a form of stasis until blood can be supplied and their wounds treated. It may even be useful as a viable alternative to anesthesia for surgery.

This sounds like some pretty cool technology, and I can't wait until it's available to the mass market. I'd love to have something like the Glove for when I jog my half marathon.

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