DARPA is planning to develop a travel adapter for the human body. Called the ADvanced Acclimation and Protection Tool for Environmental Readiness (ADAPTER), the new program aims to produce an implantable or ingestible bioelectronic device to help soldiers handle jet lag and diarrhea.
Anyone who has traveled extensively knows that jet lag and diarrhea are not jokes. Jet lag and other sleep-cycle disruptions such as shift work can impair alertness and athletic performance, and cause disorientation, fatigue, indigestion, irritability, insomnia, and excessive sleepiness. Meanwhile, travel diarrhea can produce symptoms that range from unpleasant to severe.
This is bad enough for tourists or business people, but for soldiers jet lag and diarrhea can be a real hindrance as hundreds or even thousands of soldiers can be deployed to the other side of the world at a moment’s notice, only to end up running so far ahead of the logistical chain that they have to rely on local food and water instead of standard military rations. The end result is soldiers impaired by disrupted sleep cycles or requiring medical attention for intestinal problems as a result of consuming contaminated food and water.
Drawing on new medical technology and advances in synthetic biology, the ADAPTER program will seeks to develop a device that essentially hacks a soldier’s physiology to allow them to either adapt to a new time zone or to return to their normal sleep cycle after a night mission. In addition, it would decontaminate ingested food and water of harmful bacteria.
Exactly how this would be achieved and other program details have yet to be released by DARPA, but the agency says that ADAPTER would use transient, non-genetic means.
“The goal of the ADAPTER program is to produce the therapies within the body itself,” says Paul Sheehan, Ph.D., program manager for the DARPA ADAPTER program. “ADAPTER will manage a warfighter’s circadian rhythm, halving the time to re-establish normal sleep after a disruption such as jet lag or shift lag. It will also provide safe food and water by eliminating in vivo the top five bacterial sources of traveler’s diarrhea. Both will enhance the health and mobility of warfighters.”
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