Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

Hendrick Motorsports’ STEED Supporting Rapid Recovery Efforts

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

The last trip I was able to take before the nation started to lockdown over COVID-19 was to the ADS Warfighter Expo at Ft Bragg in mid-March. While there I had the chance to catch up with Rhegan Flanagan of Hendricks Motorsports who was exhibiting the Silent Tactical Energy Enhanced Dismount or STEED.

As a quick reminder, STEED is a lightweight, all-terrain wheeled platform which carries 500 pounds and have a range of 15 to 30 miles on one battery pack. This unit is manually operated by a thumb-controlled throttle at speeds up to 6.5 miles per hour in both forward and reverse. It has a zero degree turn radius, is tactically silent, has zero emissions and is completely submersible.

That’s the textbook answer. But what STEED really is, is a force multiplier enabling one to carry the load of many. Think about it; up to 500 lbs at 6.5 miles per hour, over varied terrain for up to 30 miles. What’s more, it’s electric, so it’s silent and has a zero turn radius for tight spaces.

By that time COVID-19 was definitely with us and it was a matter of time before the nation began to fully mobilize its medical infrastructure to deal with the task at hand. We discussed the many uses of the STEED in possible scenarios from mass casualty events to civil unrest. To be sure, moving casualties and equipment around while wearing full PPE or MOPP gear can be taxing and the STEED’s power assist would sure help. Fortunately, we didn’t see such extreme measures, but the sick certainly needed to be moved at a great than normal rate in the hit zones.

Three months later it turns out, the STEED looks like a great option for the riots currently underway around the US. Bring supplies to the line and evacuate casualties. Hendrick Motorsports has also teamed with TYR Tactical to armor the STEED.

For full details, visit

Air Force Research Labs – Grand Challenges for Biotechnology

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory announced its three Biotechnology Grand Challenges last month in efforts to spearhead innovation among small businesses for the specific needs of the Department of Defense.

These three challenges, which were chosen by AFRL’s team of biotechnology experts, seek advancements in the following: biosynthesis of monomers for aerospace thermosets, biosynthesis of high-density endothermic fuels, and human performance-enhancing probiotics.

“When AFRL’s team decided on these challenges, we were looking for ways to make big strides quickly in the area of biotechnology,” said Jill McQuade, AFRL’s biotechnology program manager. “Biotechnology is one of AFRL’s big bets, and is also one of the twelve Office of the Secretary of Defense’s modernization priority area.”

McQuade explained that the AFRL Small Business office put forth $3 million to fund this initiative, which will be divided equally across the challenges. Participants can then compete in two phases of initial evaluation, and then in a Pitch Day.

In the first phase of this competition, small business participants will submit white papers with their concepts, said McQuade. During the second phase, a panel of experts will select which white papers will move forward in the competition. Then, those selected to continue in the competition will be given two weeks to enter into an agreement with a company of their choice that can scale up production and manufacturing. Finally, these teams will participate in a Pitch Day, presenting a one-hour pitch of their concept and scale up strategy with their manufacturing partner to the AFRL team. The winners of the competition will be funded in various layers by accomplishing certain milestones over the course of one year from each Pitch Day.

Pitch Days will be in July, August and September for each of the challenges, and could potentially be virtual due to social distancing guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only will these challenges expedite innovation, but they help small businesses by narrowing down specific needs, McQuade explained. “These challenges can show the broader science and technology community as well as the research and development community how biotechnology can successfully be used as a tool to develop innovative solutions to current hard problems.”

For more information about the three Biotechnology Grand Challenges, visit

Gina Marie Giardina, Air Force Research Laboratory

MATBOCK Monday: LIFT System

Monday, May 25th, 2020

As we wrap up Medical March we will be showcasing our full line of ultra lightweight, durable and multifunctional litters.  All of our litters can be used in conjunction with our ultra lightweight Carbon Combat Poles.  The Carbon Combat Poles weigh in at 1.3 pounds per pole and have a max carrying capacity of 400 pounds!  The poles when fully extended are 7′ 6 3/4″ and can be easily collapsed into 5 – 1′ 9 1/4″ sections that can be packed into any pack.

At 6.5 feet long, the stretcher is long enough to accommodate all operators and has a maximum carrying capacity of 400 lbs for both the operator and his/her gear. The stretcher has 5 handles per side to give each team a multitude of configurations for carrying a downed man.  Additionally, the litter collapses and zips together to form a multipurpose, lightweight, Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) bag. The bag is augmented with a single adjustable strap for easy carry when loaded, a drawstring to secure the bag contents and is small enough to fold up and be stored in a cargo pocket.  The S-LIFT is compatible with the Combat Carbon Poles.

Made from Ultra High-Density Polyethylene, it will not absorb water, biological or chemical hazards and can handle decontamination in all standard chemicals without degradation in strength or abrasion resistance. Additionally, the stretcher is constructed with Kevlar stitching to ensure even the stitching won’t absorb those hazards.  The J-LIFT is compatible with the Combat Carbon Poles.

The R-LIFT is a fully rigid litter that deploys in seconds, weighs only 6 lbs on its own and only 6.5 lbs with the carrying pack. It boasts a maximum load carrying capacity of 400 lbs. The litter is constructed from Ultra High-Density Polyethylene and Kevlar stitching, offering extremely high abrasion resistance and strength, inability to absorb blood, pathogens, chemical or biological hazards, and still decrease weight and size. Additionally,  The R-LIFT comes with a built-in inflatable air bladder designed to support the head and align the spine. The R-LIFT comes with a replaceable integrated emergency blanket that can be deployed quickly to prevent hypothermia.  The R-LIFT is compatible with the Combat Carbon Poles.

Entire LIFT System can be found here:

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Army Research Shows Connection Between Stress, Stomach Ulcers

Monday, May 25th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — New U.S. Army-funded research demonstrates a connection between stress and stomach ulcers.

The research, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute and funded by the Army Research Office traced neural pathways that connect the brain to the stomach, providing a biological mechanism that explains the connection.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

“The bidirectional connections between brain and gut are important conduits for communication within the mind-body axis,” said Dr. Frederick Gregory, ARO program manager. “The biological mechanisms into how stress might influence cognitive performance plays a central role in future strategies to mitigate Soldier stress through diet or other new gut-centric interventions. Not only is this important for combat missions but for the overall health and well-being of the entire Army.”

The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, build a scientific basis for the brain’s influence over organ function and emphasize the importance of the brain-body connection.

Until now, research exploring the gut-brain interaction has largely focused on the influence of the gut and its microbiome on the brain and neurological disorders. But it’s not a one-way street – the brain also influences stomach function.

“Pavlov demonstrated many years ago that the central nervous system uses environmental signals and past experience to generate anticipatory responses that promote efficient digestion,” said Peter Strick, Ph.D., Brain Institute scientific director and chair of neurobiology at Pitt. “And we have long known that every increase in unemployment and its associated stress is accompanied by an increase in death rates from stomach ulcers.”

To find brain regions that control the gut, Strick and his coauthor David Levinthal, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at Pitt, used a strain of rabies virus to track connections from the brain to the stomach.

After being injected into the stomach of a rat, the viral tracer made its way back to the brain by hopping from neuron to neuron – using the same trick that rabies virus uses to infiltrate the brain after entering the body through a bite or scratch – to reveal the brain areas that exert control over the stomach.

The researchers found that the parasympathetic – rest and digest – nervous system pathways trace back from the stomach mostly to a brain region known as the rostral insula, which is responsible for visceral sensation and emotion regulation.

“The stomach sends sensory information to the cortex, which sends instructions back to the gut,” Strick said. “That means our ‘gut feelings’ are constructed not only from signals derived from the stomach, but also from all the other influences on the rostral insula, such as past experiences and contextual knowledge.”

In contrast, the sympathetic – fight or flight – pathways of the central nervous system, which kick in when we’re stressed, predominantly trace back from the stomach to the primary motor cortex, which is the seat of voluntary control over the skeletal muscles that move the body around.

Identifying these neural pathways that connect the brain and stomach could provide new insights into common gut disorders.

For example, Helicobacter pylori infection typically triggers ulcer formation, but descending signals from the cerebral cortex could influence the bacteria’s growth by adjusting gastric secretions to make the stomach more or less hospitable to invaders.

These insights could also change clinical gastroenterology practice. Knowing that the brain exerts physical control over the gut gives doctors a new way to approach bowel problems.

“Several common gut disorders, such as dyspepsia or irritable bowel syndrome, might not get better with current treatments,” said Levinthal, who is also a gastroenterologist at UPMC. “Our results provide cortical targets that will be critical for developing new brain-based therapies that might be helpful for our patients.”

Gregory said that this is particularly relevant to combat casualty care where there are often bowel problems such as traveler’s diarrhea that can affect the overall health and performance of the military.

In addition to the U.S. Army, the National Institutes of Health and the DSF Charitable Foundation supported this work.

By U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public Affairs

AFRL Adapts PJ Tactics for COVID-19 Monitoring

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory is leveraging tactics from the Air Force pararescue (PJ) community, employing a new tool that can monitor multiple patients’ vital signs, helping to alleviate the lean doctor-to-patient ratio that many medical facilities are facing amidst COVID-19.

“One of the struggles doctors and nurses are having in highly-affected hospitals right now is similar to what PJs deal with—a high ratio of patients assigned to a low ratio of medical personnel,” said Dr. Greg Burnett, Airman-Machine Integration Product Line lead in AFRL. “Add in the contagion element, and our team saw the emergent need to adapt our medical monitoring tool for widespread use so that multiple patients could be cared for remotely.”

So Burnett and his team have been hard at work adapting this agile technology, originally developed for PJs to use down range, for hospitals and other health care facilities so they too can monitor the vitals of more patients.

The solution is a medical monitoring tool called the Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit, or BATDOK. The original version of this tool has been under evaluation by military medics for about four years and was deployed operationally about a year ago. Developed in AFRL’s 711th Human Performance Wing, it is a smartphone-based medical information software tool that can take in sensor data for real-time health-status monitoring for multiple patients. The team has made improvements along the way to this Android application with the help of direct feedback from operators down range using the device.

This adapted version, however, removes the combat casualty care aspects of the medical monitoring tool, said Burnett, but still allows for the remote monitoring sharing of patient vitals and secured networked data dissemination. These features can help prepare doctors and nurses as they work to maintain situational awareness over multiple patients—while also working to maintain their own health and safety.

But with this newer, more streamlined vital-monitoring version of BATDOK, the AFRL team will collaborate and receive direct feedback from their new customers—healthcare providers at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center. AFRL began the first of three phases of testing with BATDOK at the base medical center in mid-April.

This first phase involves comparing data of a single patient who has agreed to have vitals monitored using both traditional methods as well as using BATDOK. The time required for each phase is unknown, but each phase will have increased patients and providers.

“Clinical practice guidelines for patients infected with COVID-19, released by the Department of Defense and the Defense Health Agency, strongly recommend continuous oxygen monitoring,” said Dr. Roger Shih, WPMC Internal Medicine director.

Shih said the ability to monitor multiple patients remotely also alleviates the need for medical personnel to change out personal protective equipment (PPE) for individual patient checks.

BATDOK’s tablet interface is user-friendly, Shih explained, and the software is straightforward and intuitive. It allows a single provider to monitor up to two dozen patients with real-time monitoring of their oxygen saturation and pulse.

The BATDOK team’s software development co-leads, 2nd Lt. Matthew Dickinson and 2nd Lt. Corey Mack, discussed how the data moves remotely.

“Monitoring the patients remotely is done through a sensor embedded in the pulse oximeter that is placed on the patient’s finger,” said Dickinson.

Mack added that the sensor transmits vitals remotely to tablets or to workstations that the nurses or other healthcare providers can then monitor.

From a nursing perspective, traditional practice is for the nurses to go to a single location, a telemetry station, to observe the patient’s heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation, explained Maj. Gary Webb, WPMC Medical Surgical Unit flight commander.

But with BATDOK, which is used through an app on a cell phone, Webb explained that nurses can monitor their patients wherever they are on the unit.

“The benefit of this,” Webb said, “is that if an alarm is going off, the nurse can immediately look at the BATDOK app to see which alarm has sounded and address it. It saves much needed time in this situation.”

All-in-all, BATDOK could allow Wright-Patterson Medical Center to rapidly scale up their ability to perform continuous oxygen monitoring for patients infected with COVID-19, while also keeping staff safer and decreasing use of PPE, said Shih.

The AFRL team, some who have family members in the hardest hit areas of this pandemic, are honored to put their skills to good use.

“It means a lot to the BATDOK team to be able to do our part in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Mack. “Working directly with those who need and use the technology we build has always been a driving factor behind the success of BATDOK. So when we heard there was a need during this crisis, we started working on potential solutions.”

Story by Gina Marie Giardina, Air Force Research Laboratory

Photo by Wesley Farnsworth

Speedbox Hand Sanitizer

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

I’m a big fan of Veteran-owned Speedbox and their signature product. They’ve just recently expanded their offerings with Hand Sanitizer.

This scent free gel hand sanitizer eliminates 99.9% of Bacteria and includes moisturizer. Available in a variety of sizes.

Study Shows How Microorganisms Survive in Harsh Environments

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — In northern Chile’s Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, microorganisms are able to eke out an existence by extracting water from the rocks they colonize.

An Army-funded project by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, Johns Hopkins University and University of California, Riverside gained an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms by which some cyanobacteria, an ancient group of photosynthetic microbes, survive in harsh environments.

The new insights, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate how life can flourish in places without much water in evidence – including Mars – and how people living in arid regions may someday be able to procure hydration from available minerals.

“The Army has a strong interest in how microorganisms well-adapted to extreme environments can be exploited for novel applications such as material synthesis and power generation within these harsh fielded environments,” said Dr. Robert Kokoska, program manager, Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “This study provides valuable clues for uncovering the evolved design strategies used by these native desert-dwelling microbes to maintain their viability in the face of multiple environmental challenges.”

Through work in the field and laboratory experiments, the research team focused on the interactions of Chroococcidiospsis, a desiccation-resistant species of cyanobacteria that is found in deserts around the world, and gypsum, a water containing calcium sulfate-based mineral. The colonizing lifeforms exist beneath a thin layer of rock that gives them a measure of protection against the Atacama’s extreme temperature, high solar irradiance and battering winds.

Co-author Jocelyne DiRuggiero, JHU associate professor of biology, traveled to the remote desert to collect gypsum samples and brought them back to her labs in the United States. She cut small pieces, where microorganisms could be found, and sent them to UCI for materials analysis.

In one of the most striking findings of the study, the researchers learned that the microorganisms change the very nature of the rock they occupy. By extracting water, they cause a phase transformation of the material – from gypsum to anhydrite, a dehydrated mineral.

According to DiRuggiero, the impetus for the published work came when Wei Huang, a UCI post-doctoral scholar in materials science & engineering, spotted data showing an overlap in concentrations of anhydrite and cyanobacteria in the gypsum samples collected in the Atacama.

“Our analysis of the regions of rock where microbes were colonized revealed a dehydrated phase of calcium sulfate, suggesting that they extract water from the rock to survive,” said David Kisailus, lead author and UCI professor of materials science & engineering. “We wanted to do some more controlled experiments to validate that hypothesis.”

DiRuggiero’s team then allowed the organisms to colonize half-millimeter cubes of rocks, called coupons, under two different conditions, one in the presence of water, to mimic a high-humidity environment, and the other completely dry. In the midst of moisture, the gypsum did not transform to the anhydrite phase.

“They didn’t need water from the rock, they got it from their surroundings,” Kisailus said. “But when they were put under stressed conditions, the microbes had no alternative but to extract water from the gypsum, inducing this phase transformation in the material.”

Kisailus’ team used a combination of advanced microscopy and spectroscopy to examine the interactions between the biological and geological counterparts, finding that the organisms bore into the material like tiny miners by excreting a biofilm containing organic acids, Kisailus said.

Huang used a modified electron microscope equipped with a Raman spectrometer to discover that the organisms used the acid to penetrate the rock in specific crystallographic directions – only along certain planes where they could more easily access water existing between faces of calcium and sulfate ions.

Kisailus said the project was a great demonstration of interdisciplinary research between microbiologists and materials scientists that may, one day, open doors to other forms of scientific discovery.

“Scientists have suspected for a long time that microorganisms might be able to extract water from minerals, but this is the first demonstration of it,” DiRuggiero said. “This is an amazing survival strategy for microorganisms living at the dry limit for life, and it provides constraints to guide our search for life elsewhere.”

Researchers said this study can benefit the Army Research Lab’s efforts in synthetic biology.

“These findings have drawn the interest of our lab as microbial survival mechanisms can be leveraged for biomanufacturing or sensing platforms in harsh military environments,” said Dr. Matthew Perisin of the lab’s biotechnology branch.

In addition to the Army, NASA also provided funding for this project.

Amid COVID-19, 673d MDSS Airmen Innovate Added Layer of Protection

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020


Two 673d Medical Support Squadron (MDSS) Airmen refined their invention of a plastic barrier to protect medical providers treating patients with COVID-19, and airborne diseases in general, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, April 7, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Shoemaker, 673d MDSS biomedical equipment technician, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Taylor, 673d MDSS medical logistics noncommissioned officer in charge of acquisitions, designed and built a polycarbonate plastic enclosure to place over a patient’s head and upper torso with access for treatment via two holes at the head of the enclosure for a physician’s hands and arms, and two side doors for additional access.

“Ultimately, we wanted to create a mobile isolation room that could contain an infectious disease,” Shoemaker said. “This enclosure provides an extra layer of protection for medical staff because aerosol droplets can’t pass through it.”

Shoemaker said he got the idea after seeing the large, bubble-like ventilators medical providers in Italy and New York were using to treat patients with COVID-19. The ventilators had sufficient space around a patient’s head for a physician to reach inside and treat the patient from outside the barrier.

Shoemaker shared his idea for a sturdy, plastic barrier that could surround a patient’s head and upper torso with MDSS leadership, using a cardboard box for a visual. He said his leadership immediately gave him the go-ahead to build a prototype, and Taylor came on board to help with supplies and construction.

Taylor and Shoemaker built an acrylic prototype that same day, then invited medical professionals from infection control, respiratory therapy and anesthesiology to provide feedback and suggestions for improvements. A paramedic also intubated a medical manikin under the enclosure to assess its practicality.

“It was really cool to see the whole team excited about the idea, looking at the capability it could provide,” Shoemaker said. “Everybody was onboard. They pointed out shortfalls in the initial design and what we needed to change. For example, curving the front so there wasn’t a seam on the viewing platform, and making sure there were doors on the sides so medical technicians could support the physician.”

“Their recommendations made this enclosure a lot more functional than we originally anticipated,” Taylor said. “It could be used for more than the current situation with COVID-19. It could be used for almost any medical procedure needing an extra barrier for protection.”

To create the enclosure, polycarbonate plastic panels are cut with a waterjet, so they fit together almost like a puzzle. Thin brackets and rivets secure the panels together, and clear silicone seals the seams. The team is also working to create a single panel that can be folded into shape using heat, eliminating the need for brackets and rivets.

“It’s simplicity allows it to be quickly cleaned and sterilized after each use and ready for another patient in five to 10 minutes,” Taylor said.

“Working with the base innovation lab and the staff at the medical group, we’ve created something significant,” Shoemaker said. “If this is adopted and we’re able to make this a kit that can be sent out, it will outlast COVID-19 and go to any medical group with a need for it.”

In less than a week, with help from the 673d Medical Group, the JBER Innovation Lab and support from across the installation, these two Airmen created a functioning, potentially life-saving device.

By Airman 1st Class Samuel Colvin | 673 ABW/PA