Introducing Ascentira

Creating a world where everyone is optimized to their fullest potential

Each day is 24 hours spent completing various tasks, whether work, sleep, exercise, or school. Yet in a typical workday of eight hours, people are only really productive for three, leaving five hours of wasted time. Much of this is centered around the idea of time management, the thing everyone tells us to do, but somehow very few of us can do it adequately.

Time management is something that seems to allude to many of us. While we all try to plan out our day, it often doesn’t succeed with the average person having tested or used 13 different methods to manage their time. Time management is also linked to stress and burnout. According to a survey conducted by Mental Health America, 75% of people suffer from bad mental health-related to burnout and stress. The prominent level of exhaustion and burnout can have some dangerous consequences ranging from stagnant productivity to increased depression.

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In order to optimize yourself, you need to understand yourself. And that’s exactly what we are aiming to accomplish with Ascentira, a wearable wristband that allows you to understand yourself on a molecular level.

Effects of Improper Time Management

Improper time management is a struggle that nearly everyone has gone through, and it has detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. Studies show that improper time management is the leading cause of stress and anxiety within modern societies. Not only can there be negative mental health consequences, but stress can also result in negative physical health consequences, including high blood pressure and poor cardiovascular health. Additionally, improper time management is known to affect the quality and quantity of sleep. Studies show that this disruption of our naturally occurring circadian rhythm results in an imbalance of metabolic hormones and is a significant contributor to significant mood disorders, including depression.

Standing Out in the Wearable Device Market

Apple and Fitbit

The global medical wearables market size was $29.76 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $195.57 billion by 2027 (USD).

Competitors that are remotely similar to Ascentira would include Fitbit and Apple Health. While Apple and Fitbit both offer functionalities including sleep tracking and tracking O2 in the bloodstream, Ascentira aims to offer a different kind of health analysis through the analysis of biomarkers including cortisol and glucose via nanosensors. Additionally we aim to build on this analysis through an AI-generated schedule that tells the user when to perform certain tasks based on these biomarkers, which indicates optimal times to perform varying tasks.

How Ascentira Works

1. Noninvasive Wearable Sensors

The Ascentira wearable device will consist of two sensors: a PPG (photoplethysmogram) sensor and a GFET (Graphene Field-Effect Transistor) nanosensor. The PPG sensor measures blood pressure and heart rate while the GFET sensor measures cytokines, dopamine, sweat glucose and cortisol. After measuring the information, the wrist band will send it to the app on your phone via Bluetooth technology.

PPG Sensor: Photoplethysmography (PPG) is a simple and inexpensive optical measurement method often used for heart rate monitoring purposes.

PPG is a non-invasive technology that uses a light source and a photodetector at the skin’s surface to measure the volumetric variations of blood circulation. By measuring the user’s blood pressure and heart rate, we can use this to track the effects of exercise and the release of hormones such as adrenaline.

GFET Sensor: GFETs are a modification of the classic silicon field-effect transistor. In traditional transistors, silicon acts as a thin conducting channel, the conductivity of which can be tuned with applied voltage. GFETs perform similarly, with the silicon replaced with graphene. This yields a much thinner, more sensitive channel region.

Due to graphene’s broad electrochemical potential and its ability to be functionalized, GFETs present an attractive device for biomolecules to attach to. Because of graphene’s extreme surface-to-volume ratio, even the most negligible concentration of attached molecules changes the channel conductivity. GFET biosensors are a good platform for sensing a wide variety of biomarkers, from cytokines to dopamine and glucose and cortisol in sweat.

2. Biomarkers Ascentira Measures

With the two sensors in the wearable device, we will be testing for glucose, cortisol and cytokines, heart rate and blood pressure to provide measurements of their synchronization to the circadian cycle along with measures of other activities during the day. Biomarkers are not medical symptoms, such as a high temperature that a patient can use to determine how well they are, but an increased heart rate resulting from physical exertion is a biomarker. The increased heart rate is a physiological response to exercise.

Monitoring Circadian Rhythm and Sleep

While many of us understand the circadian rhythm to be up at dawn and down at dusk, it is a much more complicated body process than that. A circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is endogenous (a function within the organism) and entrained by the environment. Based on the different fluctuations in the cycle, we can determine which times we are the most productive, and we can do that by monitoring cortisol.

Cortisol as a Regulator of the Peripheral Clocks

Cortisol, often known as the stress hormone, has an integral role in the circadian cycle. Cortisol produced by the adrenal cortex can serve as a measure of a healthy circadian rhythm. Cortisol and melatonin have opposing rhythms and, when it comes to circadian timing, they are the primary chemical mediators providing the signals that reset the peripheral clocks. Rising cortisol in the morning hours initiates the active phase and readies us for activity, while melatonin activates the inactive phase and increases the drive to sleep.

Molecular Structure of Cortisol

Sleep and Cortisol

Biomarkers related to sleep can be associated with inducing sleep, such as melatonin or the decrease in certain hormones such as cortisol. Sleep and the stress response share the same pathway: the HPA axis. When something disrupts the HPA axis functions, it can disrupt your sleep cycles as well. Your sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm. Every 24 hours, roughly synchronized with nighttime and daytime, your body enters a period of sleep followed by a waking period. The production of cortisol in your body follows a similar circadian rhythm. Cortisol production drops to its lowest point around midnight. It peaks about an hour after you wake up. For many people, the peak is around 9 am. In addition to the circadian cycle, approximately 15 to 18 smaller cortisol pulses are released throughout the day and night. Some of those smaller bursts of cortisol correspond to shifts in your sleep cycles. When the HPA axis is too busy, it can be detrimental to sleep, causing shortened sleep or insomnia. Studies have shown that insomnia and other forms of sleep deprivation cause your body to secrete more cortisol during the day, perhaps stimulating alertness.

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Sleep and Cytokines

The nighttime decrease in cortisol and increase in melatonin is well known to be essential for quality sleep. Still, cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 also typically increase at night and induce fatigue. Other markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), which does not have a diurnal variation in healthy subjects, have also been shown to be increased with both acute total and short-term partial sleep deprivation. Even more surprisingly, however, is that increases in CRP extend beyond the days with diminished sleep, as this parameter has been shown to continue to rise with two days of sleep recovery (8 hours/night) immediately after the sleep restriction.

Monitoring Stress Levels/ Burnout

Stress and Cortisol

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear.

Molecular Structure of Adrenaline

Stress and Adrenaline

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a hormone and medication involved in regulating visceral functions. Adrenaline is customarily produced by the adrenal glands and a small number of neurons in the medulla oblongata. When you are stressed, the hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system by sending signals through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. These glands respond by pumping the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream. As epinephrine circulates through the body, it brings on several physiological changes. The heart beats faster than expected, pushing blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs. Pulse rate and blood pressure go up. Adrenaline occurring can be determined through measuring heart rate as adrenaline increases blood pressure and heart rate.

Monitoring Nutrition and Energy

Molecular Structure of Glucose

Glucose

Glucose is the simple sugar associated with foods rich in carbohydrates, like bread, potatoes, and fruits, and your body uses it for much of its energy. Most of the cells in your body use glucose and amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and fats for energy. But it’s the primary source of fuel for your brain. Nerve cells and chemical messengers there need it to help them process information. Without it, your brain wouldn’t be able to work well. After your body has used the energy it needs, the leftover glucose is stored in tiny bundles called glycogen in the liver and muscles. Your body can store enough to fuel you for about a day. After you haven’t eaten for a few hours, your blood glucose level drops. Generally tested via blood, but sweat contains glucose that can accurately reflect blood glucose.

Monitoring Exercise

Cardiovascular health and exercise

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Exercise can increase blood pressure, but the effects are typically temporary. Your blood pressure should gradually return to normal after you finish exercising. The quicker your blood pressure returns to its resting level, the healthier you probably are. Your heart rate offers a more objective look at exercise intensity. In general, the higher your heart rate during physical activity, the higher the exercise intensity. Aerobic activities such as swimming, cycling, and running put additional demands on your cardiovascular system. Your muscles need more oxygen than they do when you’re at rest, so you have to breathe more quickly. Regular physical activity also makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.

Exercise and Hormones

The mental benefits of exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Depending on the intensity of exercise, it can increase or decrease cortisol. Intense exercise increases cortisol shortly after exercise. Although it rises in the short term, nighttime levels later decrease. This short-term increase helps coordinate the growth of the body to meet the challenge.

3. AI Machine Learning Algorithm

Using Machine Learning Algorithm to Create Your Optimal Schedule

Before we can start personalizing the schedule to each individual, we need to create a “warm start schedule”. This will give us a good point of reference and, more importantly, save a lot of computational time. We will do this by having a data-gathering phase where we will give out our wrist bands and record biomarker data; this should take around a year and a half. After this data is collected, we can determine the most optimal schedule on “average.”

We will have a questionnaire that people will fill out at the end of the week that can give the algorithm insight on how well it is making the schedule. For example, people will answer a scale of 1–10 about how stressed they feel, how they think about the plan, their happiness level, how hard the program is to follow, etc.

After that general schedule is formed, we can start personalizing it to each person. The algorithm used is Contextual Bayesian Optimization, an algorithm designed to optimize a black box function that is expensive to evaluate — (meaning we want to be as data efficient as possible). In our case, the black box function will be the effectiveness of the schedule. We can quantify this by sending out a questionnaire asking users to rate different aspects on a scale of 1–10. Some of these questions will include: Is it easy to follow? Are they feeling productive? And are they happy with the schedule? The parameters that we are going to tune to optimize this function will be the order of the schedule. The critical part about this algorithm is that we will input people’s biomarkers as context to personalize it further.

Contextual Bayesian Optimization has four steps:

  1. Once the biomarker data and the warm start schedule are gathered, we will create our own data model. To do this, we will fit a Gaussian Process, a modelling device used a great deal in statistics, on the dataset.
  2. After creating our model, we want to find the next best schedule to test. This is done through the use of acquisition functions, a tool in Bayesian Optimization that helps guide us towards the global minimum or maximum.
  3. After we have gotten a new schedule to try from step 2, we will update the user with this new schedule and record how well it does.
  4. Finally, we will add this schedule to our dataset and repeat from step 1.

4. Ascentira App

Our current proposed product is a wristband that will monitor and analyze these biomarkers, and the information will be transferred to a mobile app via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Due to the extensive nature of the research process as well as the capacity of the nanosensors and algorithm, we will be offering an additional premium version of the app to those who seek to have a more detailed and customizable organizer.

Standard Version

The standard version will offer basics on measuring different biomarkers in your body, including heart rate, cortisol, glucose, blood pressure, and dopamine. The measuring of these biomarkers will allow for general insights on activity, sleep, stress and nutrition. These insights will be reflect based on the average Ascentira user. It will also offer general monitoring of the user’s synchronization to the circadian rhythm.

In the standard version of the app, the AI will only output the specific times you will be most productive during the day, whereas in the premium version, you can input what you want your schedule to include.

Premium Version

Ascentira Premium users get more advanced insights compared to those on the standard Ascentira experience. For example, rather than asleep insight reflecting average Ascentira users, Premium subscribers will get personalized insights reflecting their specific sleep or activity. Advanced insights will also connect your cortisol levels, glucose levels, heart rate, sleep and dopamine to determine your synchronization with the circadian cycle, as well as offer ways for you to improve. Those who have the premium will get additional stress management tools and wellness reports to help users get more personalized care.

The app’s premium version will also allow users to input their schedule and specific needs into the app. An additional machine learning algorithm known as self-supervised learning will map the user’s input to a particular action.

The premium features will also offer additional health monitoring by combining the biomarkers mentioned above to track breathing rate, nutrition, cytokines, heart rate variability, burnout rate, adrenaline levels, and productivity concerning cortisol and dopamine SpO2 levels. Overall, these health monitoring features will help your track your physical and mental health as you aim to achieve your most successful days.

Creating A World Where Everyone is Optimized to Their Fullest Potential

At Ascentira, our goal is to help people optimize for their best selves. We want you to understand your body on a molecular level and take advantage of your biological data to make you a better you. Real change starts with the daily choices you make, so join Ascentira to discover your full potential and optimize your daily life.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ascentira, check out our website and leave a comment below. Shout out+ credit to Margaret Kirke for her major contributions to this article, along with Ascentira teammates Maryann Issac and Marko Youngson.

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