Military Wants Troops Armed with Medical-Sample Device
American troops deployed to lonely battlefield outposts may worry more about enemy attack than getting their health checked. But they could someday pull out a device the size of a credit card to collect and store blood or other medical samples for easy shipping back to the labs, where technicians would run tests to ensure there were no unseen threats to their health.
The Pentagon's research arm, called DARPA , envisions such technology improving remote medical care by enabling distant physicians to monitor the health of warriors in the field. Such sample collectors might even better allow the military or pharmaceutical companies to more easily carry out clinical trials with new therapies or diagnostics in tough settings.
Many medical diagnostic devices have become as small and portable as smartphones , but wireless devices still can't replicate the capabilities of a fully equipped lab. A card-size device represents a simple solution that doesn't need a power source and would allow any warrior, regardless of training, to easily store his or her medical samples.
Any such storage device must also protect the samples from different temperatures, so that lab technicians can still pick out intact DNA or proteins related to different medical conditions.
One of the most popular existing collection methods, called dried blood spot cards, can still suffer from contamination and unreliable preservation of biomarkers beyond DNA. They also require blood from sticking a finger or heel, whereas DARPA wants to find an easier method for self-collection of samples.
DARPA has just begun putting out feelers in a request for information rather than proposals. But its interests include looking at preservation of biological samples used in forensic "CSI" investigation techniques, as well as food safety preservation methods perhaps found in preparing a military meal ready-to-eat (MRE).