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Home > Press > Highly Endowed Research Project for Developing an Artificial Sphincter

The national research initiative Nano-tera.ch will provide CHF 2.2 million for the development of a sphincter implant.
The national research initiative Nano-tera.ch will provide CHF 2.2 million for the development of a sphincter implant.

Abstract:
The lack of control over one's own bowel movements can severely affect an individual's quality of life. Researchers at the University of Basel want to develop an adaptive implant that would be able to contract and relax like a natural muscle. The national research initiative Nano-Tera.ch will provide CHF 2.2 million to support the interdisciplinary research and development of the implant.

Highly Endowed Research Project for Developing an Artificial Sphincter

Basel, Switzerland | Posted on April 19th, 2013

Incontinence is a double burden for those afflicted: the psychological strain is high, and many are reticent to speak about it. Although mild cases can be treated with medication, in severe cases doctors must attempt to repair the sphincter or implant an artificial one.

The hydraulic sphincter implants that are currently available have major disadvantages. They exert significant and above all permanent pressure on the tissue, which can lead to damage of the anus. Further, they are often complicated to use, especially for older patients.

Given these problems, researchers led by Professor Bert Müller of the University of Basel's Biomaterials Science Center, in cooperation with associated partners, would like to develop an implant that would contract and relax like a natural muscle. Müller explains, "An intelligent sphincter would automatically increase the pressure when the patient coughs."

The researchers rely on ten thousand nanometer-thin plastic films that become warped when exposed to a voltage. The technology already exists in principle, but miniaturization is needed to apply them in battery operated implants that can last for several years.

Broad Consortium of Research and Industry

The components of the implant that convert electric signals into mechanical motion are to be designed and built based on electroactive polymers at the University of Basel. The necessary performance electronics will be developed by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA, Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt). Clinicians from Bern and Schaffhausen will specify the required standards for the implant, and the University of Bern will conduct the testing.

The project will be led by Professor Müller, who is the Thomas Straumann Professor of Materials Science in Medicine at the University of Basel. Other partners include the Medical Faculty of the University of Bern, Inselspital Bern, EMPA, and the hospitals of Schaffhausen. Together with their own funding of CHF 4.1 million the budget includes CHF 6.3 million for four years. Myopowers SA, which already has experience with artificial sphincters for the treatment of urinary incontinence, has provided support in-kind.

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About Universität Basel
Tradition - The city of Basel is home to the oldest university in Switzerland. Founded upon the initiative of local citizens in 1460, the University of Basel is a modern and attractive centre of teaching, learning, and research situated in the heart of the historic old town.

Self - managed - The University of Basel has been self-managed since 1996 whilst remaining under the jurisdiction of the Cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. It provides committed individuals from all over the world with a strong academic community and an inspiring work environment. It is home to 3’500 staff. Its annual budget is approximately 500 million Swiss francs, of which one fourth each is borne by the two sponsoring cantons. The remaining costs are covered through federal contributions, third-party funding, other cantons, and tuition fees.

Full University Status - The University of Basel has full university status. It offers degree programmes across the arts and sciences, ranging from Archaeology to Zoology. One of our distinctive strengths is the focus on «Culture» and «Life Sciences.»

Popular - Comprising 9’000 undergraduate and 2’000 postgraduate and doctoral students, the University of Basel is comparatively small by European standards. Our 320 professors and 1’300 academic staff are dedicated to advancing
knowledge and fostering independent thinking and socially responsible action. We are proud of our high female student roll (55%) – tending upwards – and an increasing number of international students (20%).

Successful - Our mission is to accomplish first-class research, teaching, and public service. We rank among the world’s one hundred best universities and boast a top-ten place among German-speaking universities.

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Contacts:
Anne Zimmermann

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