Injuries secondary to explosive blast are a significant source of casualties in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operational environments. Tremendous resources, therefore, have been invested in researching the spectrum of these injuries (see What is Blast Injury?). However, this spectrum is broad and as a result, knowledge gaps have arisen, particularly in a research atmosphere that too often fosters isolated achievements rather than comprehensive solutions. The nine nations comprising the NATO Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) Research Task Group (RTG) HFM-234 cooperatively framed the problem as one of "environmental toxicology," that is, understanding the consequences of any individual blast injury requires knowledge of the dose, mechanism of delivery, and dose-response endpoints.
Initiated in July of 2013, and chaired by the PCO director, Mr. Leggieri, NATO HFM-234 included members from the United States, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway, all of whom have various academic, military, and/or research affiliations. In December 2018, after several years, six international meetings, and long-distance collaboration, the full HFM-234 Report was released to the public according to schedule. This comprehensive report includes the four predetermined deliverables:
The HFM-234 RTG was a call for researchers to reconcile and optimize their experimental approaches to blast injury research such that questions regarding the mitigation, treatment and/or prevention of blast injuries can be answered collectively. It is to the credit of the nine NATO nations' collaborative efforts that all of the deliverables were completed, per the charter, and three were published as original articles in the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps.1-3
Indeed, this Report will guide future research to ensure that it is applicable and can be built upon by the larger blast injury research community. Ultimately, contributions made by the HFM-234 and others will improve the process of obtaining optimal solutions to address the needs of Service members and civilians.
1 Bieler D, Cernak I, Martineau L, et al. Guidelines for conducting epidemiological studies of blast injury. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 2018.
2 Watts S, Kirkman E, Bieler D, et al. Guidelines for using animal models in blast injury research. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 2018.
3 Josey T, Ouellet S, Bieler D, et al. Guidelines for reproducing blast exposures in the laboratory. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 2018.
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