Battlefield medics frequently only have a brief window of opportunity to treat an injury before it’s fatal or causes permanent disabilities, and it’s frequently so fleeting that there’s not much they can do. DARPA is exploring an unusual solution to that problem: slow the biological processes to give medics more room to breathe. Its new Biostasis research program aims to bring cell activity to a near halt by using biochemicals that control energetics at the protein level. If animals like tardigrades and wood frogs can stabilize their cells to survive freezing and dehydration, similar techniques might offer more time to medics who want to treat wounds before a victim’s vital systems break down.
In the future, you might not have to resort to exotic materials to create heart cells — you could just raid your grocery store’s produce section. Scientists have invented a process that turns spinach leaves into farms for functioning human heart cells. The team started by pumping a detergent solution through the spinach, stripping it of its plant cells and turning it into a ghostly shell made mostly of cellulose. After that, they cultured heart cells on the remaining structure, sending both fluids and microscopic beads through the vegetable’s now-empty veins in order to feed the new cells.