The next generation of international travellers could rely on technology to help defeat jet lag and be on top of their game as soon as they step off a long overseas flight.
US biotechnology company Blackrock Microsystems, with the help of a US$33 million grant from the USA's Department of Defence research arm, is developing a "wireless, fully implantable device that can shift the body's circadian clock."
It's being pioneered in conjunction with several universities, and scientists hope the tiny module will cut in half the time it takes to recover from jet lag.
"It'll be a small device that is implanted that can release peptides to change [someone's circadian rhythm] while at the same time being able to monitor the state of the patient," says Professor Florian Solzbacher, co-founder and chair of Blackrock Microsystems.
Combining synthetic biology with bioelectronics, the research and development teams will engineer cells to produce the same peptides that the body makes to regulate sleep cycles, precisely adjusting timing and dose with bioelectronic controls.
When those cells are exposed to light, they will generate precisely-dosed peptide therapies, giving the body "exactly what it needs at a precise time."
"We are effectively building the bridge between biology and bioelectronics (and) the potential is limitless," Solzbacher enthuses. "Imagine if we can use this platform to treat other neurological disorders?"
Blackrock Microsystems is the parent of Blackrock Neurotech, which already has extensive experience in what's called "brain-machine interface technology" through implants which enable people with limited movement and other disabilities to control a computer screen or an artificial limb.