The phrase ‘chemical weapons’ has sparked fear in the US for years, so the Pentagon recently dished out $2.7 million for research on using a plant closely related to tobacco to protect soldiers from chemical warfare.
It’s a somewhat ironic decision by a country that vowed to spend $54 million on anti-tobacco advertising campaigns this year.
The Pentagon’s research branch, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), awarded $2.7 million to Kentucky Bioprocessing, LLC to research the rBuChe protein, which is found in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant, Wired magazine reported.
Washington hopes the research will yield pre-treatments containing the protein that can be given to troops pre-deployment, in case they face a chemical weapon attack.
The rBuChE protein is also found within the human liver, where it is thought to be a ‘bioscavenger’ that waits in the bloodstream to attack harmful agents.