The Pentagon is developing a radical plan to breed gentically modified life forms to hunt for enemy subs.
A newly revealed project hopes to create ‘living tripwires’ that could give early warning to Navy commanders.
The Naval Research Laboratory, or NRL, would be able to tune the microorganisms to hunt for a variety of giveaway signals, from diesel fuel to human DNA from stealth divers.
According to Defence One, coming into contact with the trigger material would cause a loss of electrons, which could be detectable to friendly sub drones.
‘In an engineered context, we might take the ability of the microbes to give up electrons, then use [those electrons] to talk to something like an autonomous vehicle,’ NRL researcher Sarah Glaven said at a November event put on by the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab.
Glaven said she believes the research is about a year away from providing concrete evidence that she can engineer reactions in abundant marine life forms that could prove useful for the military.
Researchers are targetting abundant sea organisms, like Marinobacter, for the project.
Sub-hunting, in particular, is ‘what we would like it to be applicable for,’ she said.
Several projects across the Army, Navy and Air Force, are part of the $45 million effort known as the ‘Applied Research for the Advancement of Science and Technology Priorities Program on Synthetic Biology for Military Environments’ designed to genetically engineer creatures for warfare.
If researchers can perfect the technology, it could lead to everything from living camouflage that reacts to its surroundings to better avoid detection, to radical new drugs.
Last year a team of scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed and demonstrated a pioneering synthetic biology tool to deliver DNA programming into a broad range of bacteria.
This research was published in the journal Nature Microbiology, and was featured as the cover of the September 2018 issue.