Centre for Artificial Muscles Opens at EPFL’s Neuchâtel Campus
This centre is the result of a partnership between EPFL, Inselspital, the University Hospital of Bern, the University Hospital of Zurich and manufacturers of the Neuchâtel region.
The first project is scheduled to run for the next four years and will see the development of a less invasive cardiac assistance system for treating heart failure.
The prosthesis developed at CAM – a ring around the aorta – will avoid the complications of haemorrhaging and thrombosis because it will not be in direct contact with blood.
A second project will focus on facial reconstruction aimed at recreating facial expressions, as well as developing an artificial sphincter using the same technology as the heart.
Eight people are now working in Yves Perriard’s Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI) to develop a new and less invasive cardiac assistance system.
Less invasive technology
This non-invasive ring, placed around the aorta, will be controlled by a magnetic induction system, helping the heart to pump blood.
Our system removes the need to operate inside the heart. This method will therefore be less invasive than current cardiac assistance techniques »
explains Yves Perriard, director of the LAI at Neuchâtel.
The device we have designed consists of a series of rings, made from a material called Dielectric Electro Active Polymer (DEAP). It dilates when tension is applied and contracts when it is relaxed. Because the reactions are immediate, the back and forth movement can be controlled in real time. A movement that would be too weak without the high-precision spring developed by H2i, located in Cortaillod, which has teamed up with the Integrated Actuators Laboratory.
In December, we already knew that the Dielectric Electro Active Polymers alone wouldn’t be enough
says Yoan Civet, an LAI research assistant. This led to the development and patenting of an exceptional titanium spring whose strips measure only 0.1 mm!
When placed around the aorta, the system comprising the spring and the polymer helps the heart to pump blood.
Close partnership with Inselspital
To develop this system, Yves Perriard's lab is working closely with Thierry Carrel, a cardiac surgeon and the Director and Clinical Lead at the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at Bern's Inselspital.
For patients, this technology would certainly be less invasive than current cardiac assistance systems because it does not interfere directly with the blood flow or blood cells. It may also turn out to be effective in treating patients sooner to prevent terminal heart failure,” explains the surgeon
explains the surgeon.
In addition to the 10 people developing this technique, Professor Carrel's research group at the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research and the experimental surgery section of the Department for BioMedical Research at the University of Bern will play a key role in the project. Thierry Carrel will oversee the entire first phase, spread over four years, after which, once the technology has been validated in laboratory tests, the surgeon will implant the device in animals. When this phase is complete, the researchers will know if the technology is viable.
According to EPFL President Martin Vetterli
This is a pioneering project at the crossroads of engineering and medicine. I am especially pleased with the university collaborations it has led to, notably with Inselspital.”
His enthusiasm is shared by Jean-Nathanaël Karakash
We are very proud to be able to offer the manufacturing, research and technological capabilities of Neuchâtel's innovation ecosystem, embodied in the innovation cluster at Microcity. This is a worthy endeavour that will save lives.
And also shared by the Werner Siemens-Foundation of course which, with this donation, hopes to make a real difference in the field of muscular diseases.
Heart first, facial expressions next
This project will not be limited to cardiac assistance. The Centre for Artificial Muscles will move into other fields in a second 10-year phase due to launch in 2022. This will include a urinary sphincter project and a project looking at the reconstruction of facial muscles so that victims of accidents (such as serious burns) can regain control of their expressions. The latter project will be developed with Nicole Lindenblatt from the Clinic for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University Hospital of Zurich.
The Werner Siemens-Foundation supports innovative technological and scientific research projects in universities and colleges that meet the highest standards.
It also supports selected projects aimed at educating, training and promoting young researchers.
Yves Perriard, Directorof EPFL’s IntegratedActuators Laboratory (LAI)
Tél : +41 21 695 43 10
Thierry Carrel, Director and Clinical Lead, Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Inselspital, the University Hospital of Bern
Tél : +41 31 623 23 75
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org