Army Developing Wolverine's Healing Factor, For Real

The soldiers of the future could recover quickly from wounds that would have killed or incapacitated their forebears, thanks to new technologies the army is developing. They include magic dust, regrowing bones, and nerve/vein transplants.

It's like a dream come true — or maybe a nightmare. Soldiers could be sent back to the battlefield over and over again after near-maimings and minor mutilations. One experiment succeeded in growing back a soldier's fingertip after it got cut off, thanks to a "Extracellular Matrix" or "magic dust," made out of cells from the intestinal lining and urinary bladder. It stimulates the body's natural self-repair ability, by making the body think it's back in the womb.

Another breakthrough is an engineered skin substitute from a patient's own — you can grow a postage-stamp-sized piece, and it grows to be large enough to cover a burn or wound, or even large damaged regions of the body. The military is working on nerve and vein transplants. And they've pioneered a biodegradable splint, or scaffold, made of ceramic, that can help regrow missing or damaged bone. (So far they've only regrown about three centimeters of missing bone in rat clincial trials, but they hope to get up to five centimeters within a few years.)

Army Developing Wolverine's Healing Factor, For Real

And then there's BEAR (pictured right), a robot that can retrieve injured people from the battlefield, so they can have their wounds miraculously healed. Another robot is Packbot, a voice-controlled bot that can do explosives removal and surveillance. [CNN]