Anyone who has traveled to the other side of the world has ever felt the famous jet lag, in French the “jet lag syndrome”. This problem occurs when traveling quickly through multiple time zones. Our body can then find it difficult to adapt to a new rhythm.
According to the American Sleep Association, more than 90% of travelers have been exposed to this syndrome at least once in their lifetime. And the greater the distance traveled, the greater the risk of developing a jet lag and the associated symptoms increase.
If there are tips to combat the problem and recover from it faster, scientists have decided to develop a more concrete solution. They are currently working on designing a bio-electronic implant capable of reducing the sensation of jet lag.
A “living pharmacy” to reduce the gap
According to the details disclosed, the device should not measure more than a few centimeters and will be implanted under the skin. Nicknamed “living pharmacy” (in French, “living pharmacy”), it will work by influencing the biological clock of its wearer, more exactly on its circadian rhythm.
This biological rhythm, set on a 24-hour cycle, regulates many functions within the body and in particular the alternation of the waking and sleeping phases. Within the implant, the researchers have thus integrated “cell factories” capable of releasing peptides which modify the rhythm in question.
The device will be controlled via an application installed on a smartphone. During a trip, for example, it will suffice to activate the system by specifying the time difference crossed. This will then take care of analyzing the rhythm of the wearer and triggering the implant and release of the peptides accordingly.
“For stimuli or drugs to affect your circadian rhythm, they need to be given at the right time in your cycle.“, explained to Telegraph, Professor Jonathan Rivnay, assistant professor at Northwestern University in Illinois and principal investigator of the project.
“So you will tell your smartphone how many hours you want to shift and it will detect your current phase. Then, he will determine a schedule so that the administered signals are as effective as possible in order to shift your pace.“, he continued.
With this invention, scientists believe they can halve the time it takes to recover from jet lag and adapt to a new time zone.
A very early stage of development
The project has just received support from DARPA, the US defense research agency, which has awarded it a funding of 33 million dollars (approximately 27 million euros). She felt that the technology could prove very useful for soldiers who travel regularly.
While the research has yielded promising preliminary data, the device is still at a very early stage of development, a statement said. Researchers are currently focusing on the compounds of the implant and conducting tests to assess their functioning and lifespan in particular.
Once the device has been designed, the second phase will consist of validating the operation of the assembly. If the results are conclusive, the project can then enter its third phase during which the implant will be tested on humans.
According to specialists, clinical trials could start within five years. “It would be great if the project would work as well as the preliminary data indicates.“, specified to Fox news, Professor Florian Solzbacher of the University of Utah who is participating in the research.
In addition to the military and travelers, the scientist clarified that the device could also prove useful among professionals such as rescuers who sometimes alternate day and night guards. “Having this type of device could make it more comfortable or make it work better.“, he assured.
“Everything will depend on the severity of the syndrome”
It remains to be seen whether the individuals in question will agree to have such an implant installed to reduce any symptoms related to jet lag. Asked about the question, Professor Rivnay ruled: “it will all depend on the severity of the syndrome to be treated“.
“A business traveler who flies halfway around the world once a week may not want to have it implanted, but someone with very debilitating sleep issues may volunteer.“, he estimated for the Telegraph.
Whether or not such a device tempts travelers, they will therefore have to wait a little longer before seeing this technology become reality. Until then, it is still possible to turn to the good old tricks: skillfully plan your trip and start shifting your schedules before you leave.
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