London: Wounded soldiers may soon be administered a drug that would put them into "hibernation" until they can be moved to safety, thereby increasing their chances of survival.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) would be providing $550,000 to fund a radical new drug being developed by Australian scientists, according to a Daily Mail report Wednesday.
It can put people into a "survival window" low enough to reduce blood loss, but high enough to prevent brain injury.
Experts say the drug therapy they were working on might be the first big advance in treating battlefield casualties since the Vietnam War.
The treatment targets what battlefield surgeons call the "platinum ten minutes" after a soldier is wounded.
The better known "golden hour" is a meaningless concept in far-forward military environments, according to Geoffrey Dobson of the James Cook University (JCU), who along with research associate Hayley Letson spent seven years developing the technique.
During the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 87 percent of all deaths among allied soldiers are known to have occurred in the first 30 minutes, before they could be taken to a hospital.
"Nearly a quarter of these -- almost a thousand people -- were classified as having potentially survivable wounds. Time was the killer," said Dobson.
"The problem is, after a soldier suffers catastrophic blood loss and brain injury, what is a good treatment for the body is not good for the brain and vice versa," Dobson noted.
"If you aim for too high a blood pressure, the casualty will bleed to death, and if you aim too low, the brain will be irreversibly damaged," he said.
If the right blood pressure can however be brought about, many lives on the battlefield could be saved, Dobson added.
The JCU team is developing a two-stage treatment, the first of which would rescue the casualty during the initial few minutes of severe haemorrhage and head trauma.
The second stage is designed to stabilise the casualty for longer periods ahead of evacuation.
"The fluid can be administered quickly into the blood or bone marrow and it also reduces inflammation, coagulopathy (the blood's inability to clot) and whole body energy consumption," Dobson said.
He said that the benefits would not be limited to the US SEALs and commandos, but will automatically flow through to other Western special forces units.
The treatment could also be used to save lives away from the battlefield.