Xana Innovation was founded in 2016 with the purpose of disrupting brain stimulation through the combined use of biomedical and digital technology.
The challenge was to safely influence certain brain processes regulated by neurotransmitters, such as noradrenaline, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or acetylcholine.
In the scientific research phase, we learned that the Nucleus Tract Solitary (NTS) is a brain structure that is connected to the production centres of our target neurotransmitters, and whose function is modulated by the activity of cranial nerves such as the vagus nerve. Therefore, it was possible to induce the release of target neurotransmitters by stimulating the vagus nerve.
Mechanisms of action of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) A. Monoaminergic System; B. GABAergic system; C. BDNF-TrkB pathway and neuroplasticity; D. CBF, functional connectivity of brain regions, EEG and CSD. connectivity of brain regions. Source: Wang et al. – 2021 – Vagus nerve stimulation in brain diseases Therapeutic applications and biological mechanisms. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 127 (2021) 37–53.
We also learned that the vagus nerve enervates specific areas of the ear, so it is possible to stimulate this nerve, safely and effectively, from the ear.
Distribution of nerve fibres in the auricle. ATN: auriculotemporal nerve, ABVN: auricular branch of vagus nerve, GAN: great auricular nerve. Source: Peuker et al. Neurology (2002) 59(6 Suppl 4):S3-14
We studied and tested the auricular neurostimulators of the Auricular Branch of Vagus Nerve (ABVN) that were available on the market at the time, discovering that there was room for improvement in terms of effectiveness, comfort of use and usability.
With all this knowledge in mind, we defined a challenging concept for our auricular vagus nerve neurostimulator:
- Our stimulator would be a wireless auricular connected to a smartphone with access to a cloud platform to exchange data with.
- The user experience should be similar to using a wireless earbud: removing the device from its charging case, placing it on the ear, selecting the stimulation programme on the phone and enjoy the stimulation.
- Stimulation should be tailored to the user profile and the desired neurophysiological effect.
- The effectiveness of neurostimulation should be monitored in real time. This information would travel to the cloud where it could be analysed to improve the personalisation of stimulation.
With this concept in mind, we began the challenge to make it real. It was not easy, we had to face many obstacles, but we overcame them with creativity, hard work and persistence.
Once the stimulation technology was developed, we began to validate the first mechanisms of action with our own studies. We decided to start with those of applicability to non-medical use cases, as they have a shorter time to market than those for medical use.
We validated three mechanisms of action:
- One to boost cognitive performance by enhancing response to visual and auditory stimuli.
- Another to boost physical performance by improving recovery from intense physical exertion.
- A third is to improve the stress response.
In 2019 we patented the technology worldwide, and in 2021 we moved the headquarter to the Biopôle Park in Epalinges, canton of Vaud, Switzerland, to organise the market launch of the first product: an auricular neurostimulator to boost performance and relieve stress.
The stimulation technology developed also has great potential for therapeutic uses in mental health, neurology and cardiology.
I am currently the partner with the largest equity stake in Xana Innovation.
Learn more at xanastim.com