‘Living Pharmacy’: A microchip implant that lets you control your sleep and wake cycles

Researchers are developing a microchip that lets you control your sleep cycle and treat sleeplessness. The apparatus is currently in the beginning stage of development and researchers named the chip as ‘living pharmacy’.

The concept is being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It is done in conjunction with several universities, notably Northwestern and Rice. The developer’s prime aim with this chip is to help military personnel adjust to various time zones since prolonged sleeplessness can lead to cognitive impairments, including injuries and even death.

Researchers visualize it as a miniaturized factory that when tucked inside a microchip, will manufacture pharmaceuticals from inside the body. The drugs will then be delivered to precise targets at the command of a mobile application. 

After the first trial with the soldiers of the military,  the chip could be used to treat people who suffer from sleep deprivation. The working of the chip will then be identified and monitored.

The working of Microchip 

The living pharmacy is envisioned as two separate devices—a microchip implant and an armband. The implant will contain a layer of living synthetic cells, along with a sensor that measures temperature, a short-range wireless transmitter, and a photodetector. The cells are sourced from a human donor and reengineered to perform specific functions. They’ll be mass-produced in the lab, and slathered onto a layer of tiny LED lights. The cells could be modified to release proteins called peptides when stimulated by an embedded LED light. These peptides occur naturally in the human body and regulate the sleep cycle.

The timing and dosage of the peptides can be controlled through an app on a smartphone. The app and the microchip would then communicate through a hub that will be attached to an armband. The microchip, that contains a unique identification number and an encryption key will be implanted under the skin in an outpatient procedure. The hub attached to the armband will receive signals transmitted from a mobile app.

In soldiers, the chip helps to reprogram the jet lag as they could enter their arrival time in a foreign land prior to the flight using the app. This will enable the microchip to release peptides according to the internal body temperature of the soldier. Moreover, in case of any trouble with the chip, the armband can be removed as the implanted microchip would then become useless. Along with that, the person whose body microchip is implanted can take a pill. The pill kills the cells inside the chip without affecting other parts of the body.