The four women and one man in the team got to know each other in September of last year through Stanford University’s new Innovation Farm project (http://www.stanford.edu/group/ifarmteams/). The iFarm project is intended to bring inventions by Stanford students to the market with the help of graduates and professors. Vanessa Burns, Grant Ognibene, Biquan Luo, Kristin Gleistman, and Gucci Jijuan Gu were brought together as a team by iFarm, and chose to work on this technology with their scientific advisor, neurobiologist and assistant professor Jamie Zeitzer, to develop a new product from three patents: LumosTech, a next generation sleepmask to treat jet lag.
“Millions of people fly, and most suffer from the time change,” said Vanessa Burns, CEO and one of the five founders of LumosTech. The symptoms of jet lag include sleep disturbances, nausea, digestion problems, and a general lack of energy. One of the most popular remedies is melatonin, a (sleep) hormone produced by the body that can be taken as a pill and that tells the body “it’s time to go to sleep”. But researchers at Stanford have found a better way to adjust the circadian rhythm to the local time zone – pulses of light.
The LumosTech mask is based on three patents held by the Stanford School of Medicine. Researchers there discovered that the body can be fooled simply by sending specific light pulses to the very sensitive photoreceptors in the eye at the right time.
The body adjusts itself by one hour per day, which means that someone who flies from the West Coast of America to Austria, for example, needs nine days to recover fully and be in peak form. “There is a clear need for a solution for treating jet lag in a healthy way,” said bioengineer Burns in an interview with futurezone.
Several companies have already tried to reset the body’s clock using light, including the Australian firm Re-Timer. This company’s solution involves wearing a pair of white glasses that project green light from the bottom for 30 minutes a day for four days before a flight. “But our solution works,” said Grant Ognibene enthusiastically. He is the chemist and radiology expert in the team. “There is no other device that can simultaneously monitor sleep quality and change sleep cycle.”
Initial studies were very successful, “Stanford researchers were able to prove that it works with EEGs (electroencephalography, Ed.).” As soon as sufficient prototypes are ready, the team plans to conduct a pilot study with the medical support of Stanford University.
The LumosTech mask can currently adjust the body’s clock by three hours per day. The user simply enters the desired time into a smartphone app and then puts the mask on. The mask contains a module that emits brief pulses of light at the right time. The method, in other words when how much light is emitted at what intensity, is also patented.
Tests are now under way to determine by how many hours the body’s clock can be adjusted in one night. They hope to achieve more than three hours, “we are confident that we will be able to refine the method enough in the future to maximize sleep shift within a 24 hour period,” said LumosTech marketing director Biquan Luo, who studied molecular biology.
The five LumosTech founders are still part of the Stanford Venture Studio at Stanford University, and officially only have one prototype of the jet lag sleep mask. But they intend to raise funding through Kickstarter in about six months and to then start manufacturing the mask. The team is currently in contact with startup centers and business angels who want to invest in the project. There is great market potential for the LumosTech sleep mask. The mask is to be sold not only to frequent flyers, but also to hotels and airlines. The latter could not only give them out for free for promotional purposes, but could also provide them to their own crews so they can recover more quickly. There will be enough frequent flyers who will be glad to artificially reset their internal clocks and enjoy their vacation right from the first day.