Breathe Deep, Please

A technique based of breathing gas scale liver datas in real time

LiMAx test with FLIP device Photo: Humedics GmbH

Sometimes, a single call can completely change a person’s life. This was the case for Martin Stockmann and Karsten Heyne. With one call and the question “Is anyone at the Freie Universität of Berlin working with infrared spectroscopy?” an idea took shape six years ago, which has allowed the two to write medical history in the meantime. Dr. Stockmann and Profressor Heyne developed a method permitting the current function of the liver to be measured immediately and precisely. Using the so-called LiMAx test (Liver Maximum Capacity), the patient can remain in bed and, by means of a test procedure based on their breathing, be measured in real time. There was nothing like this in medicine until now, neither for the liver nor for any other organs. “There aren’t any other systems that would be comparable with ours”, says Doctor Stockmann, Senior Physician at Berlin’s Charité.

Until now, the function of the liver could only be measured indirectly. Blood levels and biopsies were unreliable and took time to process. Dr. Stockmann and Professor Heyne, a professor of physics at the FU, happily explain it using the following example. If a liver is removed, completely normal liver values can be measured in the first minute. The reduction in health takes several days. Blood levels from yesterday therefore cannot say anything about a liver the day after tomorrow. For major operations like a liver resection, knowing precisely how well the liver is working is important. Too much of the liver is removed from up to ten percent of the patients, according to Doctor Stockmann. What often happens then is that the liver does not sufficiently regenerate and grow afterwards. This may lead to liver failure and death in 50 percent of the cases.

With the LiMAx test, methace is introduced intravenously. This material will only break down in the liver. This results in carbon dioxide (13CO2) markers as well as Paracetamol. The FLIP device, a type of mobile breath analyzer, then measures the ratio of 13CO2 to normal CO2 during exhalation.

The function of the liver can be calculated from this value.

Dr. Stockmann had already been researching the new procedure for ten years. Once it had proven itself in medical studies, technical implementation began. For this, he collaborated with Professor Heyne. Neither had considered the possibility that, in addition to their careers as professor and senior physician, they might become business people. “But at some point, we concluded that we would have to make a decision”, says Professor Heyne. Neither pharmacology companies nor medical technology businesses were showing any interest. “So that it would not remain little more than a research project, we would have to make it ourselves”, was the thinking. At the end of 2009, they established Humedics together with Wilfried Heyne, an experienced manager, with financial support from the high-tech founders’ fund. The first office was setup in the Heyne family’s attic. Since 2011, Charite Biomedical Fund, managed by Peppermint Venture Partners, KfW, IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft [stock corporation] and Ventegis Capital AG have been participating and the company has moved its offices into the CHIC founders’ center. In March 2012, Erwin de Buijzer was added to the business management of Humedics GmbH.

Stefanie Paul
Kluge Köpfe 2012