DARPA’s BETR – The Smart Bandages

Health is one of the sector that is of utmost importance. But an even more important topic to be considered is about the health of the soldiers. DARPA suggests an interesting way by using intelligent bandages and other system that predict as well as automatically react to the patient’s needs.

What is DARPA suggesting?

On the 6th of February, 2019, DARPA announced about their research on Intelligent Healing for Complex Wounds. It is a bioelectronics interface which could speed the body’s natural healing processes in order to deliver faster recovery from wounds with fewer complications.


Blast injuries, burns, and other wounds experienced by war-fighters 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. Also, this long and limited healing process means prolonged pain and hardship for the patient, and a drop in readiness for the military.

DARPA’s Bioelectronics for Tissue Regeneration program, or BETR, will help fund new treatments and devices that “closely track the progress of the wound and then stimulate healing processes in real time to optimize tissue repair and regeneration.”

Words of DARPA Representative-

Paul Sheehan, the BETR program manager, described his vision for the technology as “not just personalized medicine, but dynamic, adaptive, and precise human therapies”.
He says they adjust to the wound state moment by moment to provide greater resilience to wounded war-fighters. Here are few excerpts of his words –

“Wounds are living environments and the conditions change quickly as cells and tissues communicate and attempt to repair. 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.”

“To understand the importance of adaptive treatments that respond to the wound state, consider the case of antibiotic ointments. 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.”

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The Verdict –

BETR is a four-year program, during which DARPA hopes that it can spur innovation in the space and create a “closed-loop, adaptive system” that improves outcomes significantly. Also, there’s a further ask to have a system that addresses osseointegration surgery for prosthetics fitting — a sad necessity for many serious injuries incurred during combat.

This system may require some degree of artificial intelligence, although of course it would have to be pretty limited. But biological signals can be noisy and machine learning is a powerful tool for sorting through that kind of data.

Hence, one can only hope that the technology will trickle down, of course, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s all largely theoretical for now, though it seems more than possible that the pieces could come together well ahead of the deadline.

Source: TechCrunch

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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