Experience and speed
An innovation that could significantly improve the situation of patients is also being worked on in Freiburg – but under different conditions than in Mirandola. Neuroloop GmbH is based in Freiburg. At first glance, neuroloop might seem like a typical start-up – a spin-off from the University of Freiburg. A small team of neurophysiologists, neurosurgeons, and microsystem engineers have been performing research about the vagus nerve and its stimulation for a long time.
The CEO of neuroloop, Dr. Michael Lauk, explains: “The whole idea goes back to research that was conducted here at the University of Freiburg in the microsystems engineering and neurosurgery PhD departments. The vagus nerve is, in very simplified terms, a kind of data highway that runs through the entire body. Quite a few autonomic body functions – heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing, digestion – are controlled by the vagus nerve. By stimulating the vagus nerve, it might be possible to treat diseases such as high blood pressure very precisely, without pharmaceutical intervention."
The problem here is that because the vagus nerve controls such different processes, targeted stimulation of a single function has been impossible until now – for example, by influencing blood pressure, the heartbeat or digestion would also have been manipulated in some patients, or side effects such as a change in voice could occur. However, the research from Freiburg provided a remedy. A type of sleeve with a very large number of contacts to sheath the nerve was developed, and it can then be precisely controlled. Neuroloop was founded in 2016, the plan was to develop just such a device. Dr. Michael Lauk, who previously worked at another medical technology start-up in the U.S., returned to his hometown of Freiburg to do it.