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Navy Exploring Genetically Engineered Organisms to Detect Enemy Subs

The U.S. Navy plans to genetically engineer marine microorganisms to add the ability to react to its surroundings to signal the passage of enemy submarines, underwater vessels or divers, Defense One reported Saturday.

The Naval Research Laboratory is leading a study on abundant sea organisms that could react to substances left by vessels, divers or equipment, such as metals, fuel exhaust or human DNA. 

NRL researcher Sarah Glaven said the organisms may react through electron loss, which the Navy can detect with sensors on ships or autonomous vehicles.

The Navy launched the study as part of a $45M program with the Army and Air Force aimed at providing tools to engineer organisms that could support the military. 

However, Glaven noted the Navy has yet to provide evidence that it could engineer reactions in abundant marine life forms.

Meanwhile, the Army is looking at biology to allow soldiers to rapidly produce or print new camouflage coatings in the field to conceal equipment, according to Dimitra Stratis-Cullum, head of biomaterials team at the Army Research Laboratory.

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