Department Chair
Professor Florian Solzbacher

University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor and department chair Florian Solzbacher recently joined a national team of North-Western University-led researchers developing a wireless, fully implantable device that will control the body’s circadian clock. The project is part of a cooperative agreement signed with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. 

The project, NTRAIN (Normalizing Timing of Rhythms Across Internal Networks of Circadian Clocks), is part of a new program developed by DARPA to address jetlag, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, and other challenges that come from travel. The device could be an important tool for military personnel who travel between multiple time zones and shift workers who alternate between overnight and day shifts. 

“My overall motivation has always come from a desire to help people and restore functions that they’ve lost,” Solzbacher said. “In this case, we are working to adjust the circadian rhythm to prevent jet lag and help deployed military personnel adapt to the time zone that they are in.”  


Solzbacher will work with the team to build the implantable device that will divide the time it takes to recover from disrupted sleep/wake cycles in half. University of Utah researchers will be responsible for encapsulation and testing of the device. 

Combining synthetic biology with bioelectronics, the team will engineer cells to produce the same peptides that the body creates to regulate sleep cycles and modify their timing and dose using bioelectronic controls. After reaching these milestones, they can begin to test the device in human trials. 

“We are at an inflection point right now, in terms of neurotechnologies,” Solzbacher said. “I think we are going to continue to see more and more implants that support biology function by detecting and countering diseases earlier where possible.” 

In addition to controlling circadian rhythms, this technology could be modified to play an essential role in other therapies that require precise timing and dosing. In general, the project will provide a better understanding of sleep/wake cycles. 

Find out more about this project on the College of Engineering news page.