About 3
© EPFL, Alain Herzog

Whenever something moves in the human body, our muscles do the work.

However, while today it is part of everyday clinical practice to replace joints and bones with artificial parts, reconstruction medicine still has great difficulties finding a suitable replacement for damaged or destroyed muscles. There is one muscle in particular whose function is vital and is the subject of several studies, but without convincing results: the heart. Other muscles of the body actually share mechanical similarities with the heart, including the sphincter muscle, which, if damaged, can cause urinary incontinence. Facial muscles also share such similarities and must be replaced after an accident or injury.

Although these muscles do not play a vital role in the body, they remain extremely important for patients’ quality of life, for example a well-functioning sphincter muscle is critical in order to avoid unpleasant side effects such as needing to wear diapers. The parallels between muscle types could allow the development of universal electromechanical multifunctional actuators.

Project Timeline

Pr Yves Perriard

Yves Perriard was born in Lausanne, Switzerland,in 1965. He received the M.Sc. degree in microengineering and the Ph.D. degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, in 1989 and 1992, respectively. He was the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Micro-Beam SA, which is involved in high-precision electric drives. He is with EPFL, Neuchatel, Switzerland, where he was a Senior Lecturer in 1998, has been a Professor since 2003, and is currently the Director with the Laboratory of Integrated Actuators. From 2009 to 2013, he has been the Vice-Director with the Microengineering Institute, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. His research interests include the field of new actuator design and associated electronic devices. Dr. Perriard is a Vice President of the Executive Council of the European Power Electronics Association, Brussels, Belgium. In 2018, he opened and is leading the Center for Artificial Muscles within EPFL thanks to the Werner-Siemens Foundation donation.

Pr Nicole Lindenblatt

Nicole Lindenblatt was born near Dusseldorf, Germany and lives in Switzerland since 2007. She has been Adjunct Professor at the University of Zurich since 2015 holds currently the position as Deputy Director of the Clinic for Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery, University Hospital Zurich. Her main clinical interest focuses on reconstructive and aesthetic facial plastic surgery, with a special interest in facial reanimation. She was able to deepen her clinical expertise during several international fellowships in The Netherlands, Japan, USA and Brazil. Lymphatic surgery and breast surgery are further subjects of her broad clinical experience. In 2013 she received the Georg-Friedrich-Götz Prize of the University of Zurich.  She is a Fellow of the European Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (FEBOPRAS) since 2010. Her research interest focuses on microcirculation and vascularization strategies for tissue engineering.

“Thanks to the support of the Werner Siemens Foundation, my long-standing wish to enable patients with facial paralysis to smile again has become a real possibility. I am therefore very enthusiastic about working together with an extremely competent and visionary team”

Pr Thierry Carrel

Thierry Carrel graduated in 1984 at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Between 1984 and 1989, he trained as a general surgeon in Basel and Berne and obtained the Swiss Medical Board in General Surgery. Later, he underwent training in Cardiovascular Surgery at the University Hospital in Zürich and received the Swiss Medical Board in 1994. He spent several fellowships in congenital surgery in Paris and Helsinki and in adult cardiac surgery in Hannover and Baltimore. Since 1999 he is Full Professor at the University of Bern and Chairman of the Clinic for Cardiovascular Surgery at the University Hospital. Between 2006 and 2008, he was Chairman ad interim of the Clinic for Cardiac Surgery at the University of Basel. Thierry Carrel is author of more than 750 peer-reviewed publications, and Associate Editor or member of the Editorial Board of several international journals (EJCTS, JTCVS, JCVS). In 2013 he received the Da Vinci award of the EACTS as best teacher of Europe. In 2015, he was awarded as Honorary Doctor of the University of Freiburg, Switzerland. Since 2018, Thierry Carrel is Member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Thoracic Surgery.

“The first, most challenging project to supply a forward flow within the descending aorta using a dielectric elastomer was successful. This major milestone was made possible through close collaboration between basic scientists from EPFL and clinicians from the University of Bern, based at the Inselspital. It opened the way for further experimental and applied research in the fields of surgery to create artificial muscles for other significant clinical purposes.”