Physical, Mental, and Emotional Readiness of U.S. Troops
For sailors in the United States Navy, physical stress is a part of the job description. Enhancing the ability to defend against myriad forms of battlefield stress—such as injury, blasts, toxic chemicals, and biological agents—and to prime individual performance remains an unmet research need. As part of the Office of Naval Research’s Young Investigator Program, Yimon Aye, Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Biochemistry at Weill Cornell Medicine, aims to better prepare men and women in the military with technology geared to improve the individual’s performance, healing, and ability to fight infection at a specific time.
Nature has already bestowed humans with an awesome battery of defense genes. Aye is asking how the military can capitalize on these genes. Remote-controlled triggering of the endogenous stress defense is a gateway for maximizing military personnel’s performance and preconditioning, but current methods to control stress responses—genome editing or the use of chemical agonists—create permanent genome scars and lack precision.
Aye is presenting a potential leap in preconditioning for enhanced military readiness by developing and showing the applications of a programmable small-molecule-based toolkit. This toolkit hijacks innate reduction-oxidation signals in order to turn on stress defense in complex vertebrate animals, modeled by zebrafish. This would allow for precise control of stress-responsive proteins while leaving the genome untouched. The technology—administered in a latent form before the time of need—has the potential to bestow enhanced stress resistance, performance, and recovery to better protect and prepare United States troops.