The battlefield of the future may react differently to combat injuries, providing instant treatment to wounded soldiers even before a medic reaches their side.
Impossible? Not if researchers at universities on opposite sides of the country succeed in creating a "field hospital on a chip" - a system worn by every soldier that would detect an injury and automatically administer the right medication. Survival of battlefield wounds often depends on the level of treatment within the first 30 minutes.
Evgeny Katz of Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., and Joseph Wang of the University of California, San Diego, will share a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to create the high-tech field hospital.
The automated sense-and-treat system will continuously monitor a soldier's sweat, tears or blood for biomarkers that signal common battlefield injuries such as trauma, shock, brain injury or fatigue and then automatically administer the proper medication.
Katz will lead a team of researchers who are working on creating enzymes that can measure the biomarkers and provide the logic necessary to make a limited set of diagnoses based on several biological variables.
"We have already designed bioelectrodes and biofuel cells responding to multiple biochemical signals in a logic way," says Katz, co-principal investigator on the project. "In the future we could expect implantable devices controlled by physiological signals and responding to the needs of an organism, notably a human."
Katz, who joined the Clarkson faculty two years ago from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, holds the Milton Kerker Endowed Chair of Colloid Science at Clarkson. His current research is a continuation of work begun before joining the Clarkson faculty.
Wang, principal investigator on the project, will head a nanoengineering team in San Diego that will build a minimally invasive system for the soldier's body to process the biomarker information, develop a diagnosis and begin administering the proper medications.
"Since the majority of battlefield deaths occur within the first 30 minutes after injury, rapid diagnosis and treatment are crucial for enhancing the survival rate of injured soldiers," says Wang.
Wang and Katz hope that the resulting enzyme-logic sense-and-treat system will revolutionize the monitoring and treatment of injured soldiers and will lead to dramatic improvements in their survival rate.