A Real-Life Captain America? The United States Special Operations Command Is Testing A Human Performance and Anti-Aging Pill
In the next year, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) expects to move into clinical trials with a pill that may inhibit or reduce some of the degenerative effects of aging and injury — part of a broader Pentagon push for “improved human performance.”
Navy Commander Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesperson, said SOCOM “has spent $2.8 million on this effort” since its launch in 2018. “We have completed pre-clinical safety and dosing studies in anticipation of follow-on performance testing in fiscal year 2022.” SOCOM is using funds from the Other Transaction Authority (OTA) — how the Department of Defense (DoD) carries out specific prototypes, research, and production projects — to partner with private biotech laboratory Metro International Biotech, LLC (MetroBiotech) in the pill’s development.
What’s in SOCOM’s anti-aging pill?
Although SOCOM didn’t release information about the pill’s contents, it’s reasonable to suspect that it involves first-in-class, small-molecule nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) enhancers, which are the bread and butter of MetroBiotech. In the past decade or so, studies have shown that levels of NAD+ decline with age and play a role in aging-related and more mainstream diseases, conjuring a bubbling interest in generating optimal NAD+ boosters.
The company’s lead compound MIB-626 — a proprietary formulation of the crystalline form of a direct NAD+ precursor called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) — is being driven through clinical development. Researchers have shown in rodents that NMN supports energy metabolism, physical activity, and visual abilities. Possibly relevant to the armed forces, especially those in danger of explosions, NMN has been shown to prevent noise-induced hearing loss and cochlear nerve degeneration even after noise exposure.
Is the US military making superhero soldiers?
So, what exactly is SOCOM trying to achieve with an “anti-aging” pill? “These efforts are not about creating physical traits that don’t already exist naturally,” said Commander Hawkins. “This is about enhancing the mission readiness of our forces by improving performance characteristics that typically decline with age.” The Naval Commander explains that the basis for the “anti-aging pill” is what’s called a “human performance small molecule.”
Commander Hawkins says, “Essentially, we are working with leading industry partners and clinical research institutions to develop a nutraceutical, in the form of a pill that is suitable for a variety of uses by both civilians and military members, whose resulting benefits may include improved human performance — like increased endurance and faster recovery from injury.”
The pill “has the potential, if it is successful, to truly delay aging, truly prevent onset of injury — which is just amazingly game changing,” Lisa Sanders, director of science and technology for Special Operations Forces, acquisition, technology & logistics (SOF AT&L), said. Sanders says that SOCOM has stayed out of long-term genetic engineering because “that makes people very very uncomfortable.” The SOF AT&L Director thinks that “there’s a huge commercial marketplace for things that can avoid injury, that can slow down aging, that can improve sleep.”
So, this pill will not mimic the radioactive bite that transforms Peter Parker into Spider-Man, conferring spider-related abilities like clinging to surfaces. Nor is this the "Super Soldier Serum" used to turn Steve Rogers, a frail young artist, into Captain America, but there are some similarities. For example, the Super Soldier Serum enhances metabolic functions and prevents the build-up of fatigue poisons in his muscles, giving Captain American endurance far in excess of an ordinary human being.
This doesn’t mean that every soldier (or civilian) will one day possess magical healing properties, let alone be handed an indestructible shield. However, if successful, the pill may be able to help support healing and healthy aging.