To cope with the difficult task of mountains, American soldiers will receive sniffed substances to help them adjust very quickly – within two minutes – at high altitudes. Normally, at higher heights (over 9000 feet), the body needs days or even weeks to regulate their functions.
Blood carries less oxygen at high altitudes, leading to a lack of oxygen in bodily tissue, called hypoxia. That, in turn, can cause nausea, confusion and fatigue — hardly the attributes the military’s after in battle-ready troops. By augmenting blood flow to tissues, the research team hopes to enhance oxygen delivery too.
That’s an adaptive process the human body is already capable of, but the necessary acclimatization can take weeks. Dr. Jonathan Stamler, who’s leading the research at Case Western, says the drugs will essentially do what we already can.
“We’re essentially mimicking nature here,” he tells Danger Room. “Take people climbing mountains, who will set up base camps at varying altitudes to give their bodies time to adjust. We’re making these mechanisms much, much more acute — a matter of minutes, rather than days.”
They haven’t told anything whether the drug is addictive nor about its side effects. Currently the substance is tested on animals. In three years, they want it to be used by the military.
The $4.7 million project is being developed by researchers at the Institute Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and financially supported by DARPA, the agency that is leading through concepts and amazing technological achievements: EATR (fully autonomous robots), Transformer (flying machine) and many more.