soldier (FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock.com)

Fighting jet-lag, traveler’s diarrhea with implantable pharmacies

Because warfighters must stay in peak physical condition, jet lag and travelers’ diarrhea can pose understandable readiness challenges. To maximize individuals’ performance, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to give service members the ability to produce and release of therapies that either re-regulate disrupted sleep cycles or eliminate bacteria that cause gastrointestinal stress.

The Advanced Acclimation and Protection Tool for Environmental Readiness (ADAPTER) aims to enhance the health and mobility of warfighters by halving the time it takes to reestablish a warfighter’s normal sleep after a disruption such as jet lag or shift lag and eliminating the top five bacterial sources of traveler’s diarrhea through bioelectronic carriers that release therapies warfighters can use to control their own physiology.

Currently, adjusting for jet lag includes pre-deployment sleep hygiene and light exposure, but it requires precise timing and fixed equipment, making it impractical for large numbers of warfighters. Fighting diarrhea, a chronic military problem, is difficult when warfighters must rely on local food and water. As missions become more lengthy, dispersed and remote the challenges of obtaining safe food and water are likely to grow.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved ingestible bioelectronic sensors for monitoring the gastrointestinal tract and subcutaneously implanted circuits to deliver drugs, but these advances have not yet been applied to complicated challenges like circadian rhythm management or traveler’s diarrhea, DARPA said in its broad agency announcement. Additionally, the implants can only deliver a limited amount of a therapeutic drug.

ADAPTER’s goal is to develop implantable or ingestible bioelectronic carriers that will be able to manufacture, store and deliver reliable drugs in the appropriate doses at precise times, then cease on demand. The carriers must stay in place for at least 60 days once ingested or implanted and open to activate the drug therapies when signaled by an external device controlled by the user.  The internal and signaling devices will communicate through live tissue by radio frequencies, ultrasound or magnetic fields and be secured by either highly local signal propagation or encryption.

The four-and-a-half-year program aims to deliver internal compounds that retrain circadian rhythms/restore sleep-cycles and decontaminate food and water from bacterial causes of traveler’s diarrhea.

Read more about the research opportunity here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.

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