Back to news

February 7, 2019 | International, Security, Other Defence

DARPA: Intelligent Healing for Complex Wounds

Blast injuries, burns, and other wounds experienced by warfighters often catastrophically damage their bones, skin, and nerves, resulting in months to years of recovery for the most severe injuries and often returning imperfect results. This long and limited healing process means prolonged pain and hardship for the patient, and a drop in readiness for the military. However, DARPA believes that recent advances in biosensors, actuators, and artificial intelligence could be extended and integrated to dramatically improve tissue regeneration. To achieve this, the new Bioelectronics for Tissue Regeneration (BETR) program asks researchers to develop bioelectronics that closely track the progress of the wound and then stimulate healing processes in real time to optimize tissue repair and regeneration.

Paul Sheehan, the BETR program manager, described his vision for the technology as “not just personalized medicine, but dynamic, adaptive, and precise human therapies” that adjust to the wound state moment by moment to provide greater resilience to wounded warfighters.

“Wounds are living environments and the conditions change quickly as cells and tissues communicate and attempt to repair,” Sheehan said. “An ideal treatment would sense, process, and respond to these changes in the wound state and intervene to correct and speed recovery. For example, we anticipate interventions that modulate immune response, recruit necessary cell types to the wound, or direct how stem cells differentiate to expedite healing.”

The envisioned BETR technology would represent a sharp break from traditional wound treatments, and even from other emerging technologies to facilitate recovery, most of which are passive in nature.

Under current medical practice, physicians provide the conditions and time for the body to either heal itself when tissues have regenerative capacity or to accept and heal around direct transplants. Most people are familiar with interventions that include casts to stabilize broken bones or transplants of healthy ligaments or organs from donors to replace tissues that do not regenerate.

Passive approaches often result in slow healing, incomplete healing with scarring, or, in some unfortunate cases, no healing at all. Blast injuries in particular seem to scramble the healing processes; 23 percent of them will not fully close. Moreover, research shows that in nearly two thirds of military trauma cases — a rate far higher than with civilian trauma injuries — these patients suffer abnormal bone growth in their soft tissue due to a condition known as heterotopic ossification, a painful experience that can greatly limit future mobility.

Although recent experimental treatments offer some hope for expedited recovery, many of these new approaches remain static in nature. For instance, some “smart” bandages emit a continuous weak electric field or locally deliver drugs. Alternatively, hydrogel scaffolds laced with a drug can recruit stem cells, while decellularized tissue re-seeded with donor cells from the patient help avoid rejection by the host's immune system. These newer approaches may indeed encourage growth of otherwise non-regenerative tissue, but because they do not adapt to the changing state of a wound, their impact is limited.

“To understand the importance of adaptive treatments that respond to the wound state, consider the case of antibiotic ointments,” Sheehan explained. “People use antibiotics to treat simple cuts, and they help if the wound is infected. However, completely wiping out the natural microbiota can impair healing. Thus, without feedback, antibiotics can become counterproductive.”

Recent technologies have begun to close the loop between sensing and intervention, looking for signs of infection such as changes in pH level or temperature to trigger treatment. To date, however, these systems have been limited to monitoring changes induced by bacteria. For BETR, DARPA intends to use any available signal, be it optical, biochemical, bioelectronic, or mechanical, to directly monitor the body's physiological processes and then to stimulate them to bring them under control, thereby speeding healing or avoiding scarring or other forms of abnormal healing.

By the conclusion of the four-year BETR program, DARPA expects researchers to demonstrate a closed-loop, adaptive system that includes sensors to assess wound state and track the body's complex responses to interventions; biological actuators that transmit appropriate biochemical and biophysical signals precisely over space and time to influence healing; and adaptive learning approaches to process data, build models, and determine interventions. To succeed, the BETR system must yield faster healing of recalcitrant wounds, superior scar-free healing, and/or the ability to redirect abnormally healing wounds toward a more salutary pathway.

DARPA anticipates that successful teams will include expertise in bioelectronics, artificial intelligence, biosensors, tissue engineering, and cellular regeneration. Further, DARPA encourages proposals that address healing following osseointegration surgery, which is often necessary to support the use of advanced prosthetics by wounded warfighters.

DARPA will host a Proposers Day on March 1, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, to provide more information to researchers interested in submitting a proposal for funding. Additional information is available at https://go.usa.gov/xENCQ. A forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement, to be posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website, will include full details of the program.

https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2019-02-06a

On the same subject

  • ‘Major Milestone’ As Allies Join SPACECOM’s War Plan

    May 22, 2020 | International, Aerospace, Naval

    ‘Major Milestone’ As Allies Join SPACECOM’s War Plan

    "The hesitation to include allies in Olympic Defender was on our end as well," says Secure World Foundation's Brian Weeden. "National security space is sort of the last bastion of America's 'crown jewels'." By THERESA HITCHENSon May 21, 2020 at 5:50 PM WASHINGTON: A number of US allies may now join Space Command in the US military's baseline plan for protecting and defending satellites during war, Operation Olympic Defender, we hear, following in the footsteps of the first country to sign up, the United Kingdom. SPACECOM today announced its leader, Gen. Jay Raymond, has signed the first order under OOD in his capacity as head of the combatant command. OOD is the US military's operational plan for protecting and defending US and allied satellites in conflict. “This is a major milestone for the newly established command,” Raymond said. “As the threats in the space domain continue to evolve, it is important we leverage and synchronize capabilities with our allies not only to understand each other's national perspectives, but to work seamlessly together to optimize our multinational space efforts.” Strategic Command created OOD in 2013 as the foundational plan for how the military will protect and defend US and allied satellites in a conflict. As Breaking D readers know, OOD was updated in 2018 to open up allied participation. “The purpose of OOD is to strengthen allies' abilities to deter hostile acts in space, strengthen deterrence against hostile actors, and reduce the spread of debris orbiting the earth,” the SPACECOM release explains. OOD is only one of a number of operational plans for space war Raymond has been working on since SPACECOM was established as a geographic command with an area of responsibility (AOR) 100 kilometers above sea level and up to infinity. He told reporters yesterday that he last week inked the new “campaign plan” for SPACECOM's day-to-day operations; every Combatant Command has such a campaign plan; this will be SPACECOM's first. “That's our foundational plan, if you will,” Raymond explained, “that drives our day-to-day activities across the command of SPACECOM.” In addition, SPACECOM now has responsibility for developing, updating and enacting when the ball drops specialized contingency plans for space war, mapped to specific adversary countries. Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter back in 2016 set the precedent, naming Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as the key strategic challengers to the US military. SPACECOM's announcement today also noted that the United Kingdom was the first ally to publicly acknowledge this past July its participation in OOD. London subsequently sent additional personnel to Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) and the 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg AFB to support its decision, SPACECOM added. CSpOC is responsible for command and control of day-to-day space operations and includes allies representation. The 18th Space Control Squadron is responsible for space domain awareness operations. Up to now, many allies were leery of signing up due to the fact that space operations were being commanded by STRATCOM, which also oversees US nuclear war planning. Public opinion in many US allies, such as Germany and Italy, traditionally has been strongly anti-nuclear. It is not by chance that even the UK, which had joined OOD under STRATCOM's control, kept its participation silent until now. “Some of those same concerns were initially raised about having USSTRATCOM be the lead agency for signing SSA data sharing agreements with other countries,” noted Brian Weeden, head of program planning at Secure World Foundation and a former Air Force officer who worked on space situational awareness operations at STRATCOM. “But the hesitation to include allies in Olympic Defender was on our end as well,” Weeden added. “National security space is sort of the last bastion of America's “crown jewels” and there are a lot of people in that community who are very reluctant to open the kimono to our allies, even the allies who we've been deeply collaborating on intelligence sharing for decades.” DoD and expert sources say interest in participation in space war planning has increased not just because of SPACECOM's standup, but also because concerns about Russian and Chinese efforts to build up their military space capabilities. Indeed, NATO in December declared space an operational domain of joint allied action — albeit insisted that this does not mean NATO endorses space weaponization. France last summer adopted an aggressive space strategy, including pursuit of offensive anti-satellite weapons. Japan on May 19 announced its new Space Operations Squadron, under the Japanese Air-Self Defense Force, to monitor and protect Japanese satellites. For example, the number of countries signing SSA agreements with DoD has jumped to 25, with Peru signing a memorandum of understanding with SPACECOM just last week to gain access to data about space objects collected by the military's Space Surveillance Network of radar and optical telescopes, as well as data to help the country's satellites avoid on-orbit collisions. “This agreement will give Peru access to the highest quality satellite tracking data available to assist them with PerúSat-1 and its eventual follow-on and will provide a linkage to the experts at the 18th Space Control Squadron. In addition, the SSA Agreement enables Peru to request seven advanced services available only to agreement holders,” SPACECOM said in a May 12 announcement. Spain, France and Italy — all of which operate military satellites — have expressed interest in participating in OOD, we are told. Besides the UK, the other members of the so-called “Five Eyes” — Australia, Canada and New Zealand — who already shared intelligence with the US are expected to join in. Although Germany has been hesitant to be seen as pro-space weapons, Berlin has a sophisticated military space program and is unlikely to stay outside of operational planning if rival France joins in. Japan too can be expected to sign on, as it has been seeking myriad ways to be more active in partnering with the US military on space protection — including agreeing to host US military payloads on Japanese satellites. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/05/major-milestone-as-allies-join-spacecoms-war-plan

  • US Air Force eyes advance procurement to more quickly make E-7 planes

    August 3, 2023 | International, Aerospace

    US Air Force eyes advance procurement to more quickly make E-7 planes

    With the clock ticking on retiring the Air Force's aging E-3 Sentry fleet, every second counts on building the E-7s that will replace them.

  • CAE awarded contract from Boeing to develop additional P-8A operational flight trainer for Royal Air Force

    May 22, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    CAE awarded contract from Boeing to develop additional P-8A operational flight trainer for Royal Air Force

    Tampa, Florida, USA, May 13, 2019 – (NYSE: CAE; TSX: CAE) – On the eve of the International Training and Education Conference (ITEC), Europe's largest show for military training and simulation, CAE announced that Boeing has ordered simulator hardware for an additional P-8A operational flight trainer (OFT) for the United Kingdom Royal Air Force (RAF). This follows a contract award last year for CAE to design and manufacture the hardware for the first P-8A OFT for the RAF as well as a P-8I OFT for the Indian Navy. In addition, CAE developed and delivered a P-8 operational flight trainer integration asset, which is used by Boeing as an engineering development tool to test and validate aircraft and simulator upgrades for the United States Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, and other international customers. “We are pleased to continue supporting Boeing on the development of P-8 training systems for the international customers acquiring this advanced maritime patrol aircraft,” said Ray Duquette, President and General Manager, CAE USA. “The United Kingdom and India will now join the U.S. Navy and Australia in leveraging high-fidelity synthetic training as part of their overall P-8 training curriculum.” The P-8 OFTs for the RAF and Indian Navy will be similar to the P-8A OFTs that CAE and Boeing have already developed for the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. CAE designs and manufactures the P-8 OFT hardware to Level D standards, the highest qualification for flight simulators. CAE also provides the 737-800 OFT software baseline and simulation-based software lab environment that is used for the P-8 OFT development and integration tasks. CAE then delivers the simulators to Boeing, who designs, installs and integrates software specific to the P-8 aircraft. The P-8A OFTs for the RAF are scheduled for delivery to RAF Base Lossiemouth in Scotland in 2021. The P-8 OFT for the Indian Navy specifically representing the Indian Navy's P-8I variant is scheduled for delivery to India Naval Station (INS) Rajali in 2021. https://www.cae.com/news-events/press-releases/cae-awarded-contract-from-boeing-to-develop-additional-p-8a-operational-flight-trainer-for-royal-air-force

All news