Nano-Tera Project: SmartSphincter

One of the largest markets, still under-developed by medical device companies, is the treatment of urinary and fecal incontinence. The demographic changes in western countries will lead to a significant increase of incontinent people. For instance, fecal incontinence affects nearly 10% of people over 60 years of age, and about 2 million people in Europe have daily severe fecal incontinence. The success of current treatments is disappointing because of numerous complications including infections.
The aim of the proposal is to realize prototype devices acting as artificial muscle, termed anal sphincter, to finally treat patients with severe fecal incontinence. The device should replace the destroyed natural muscle function using low-voltage electrically activated polymers (EAPs) controlled by implemented pressure sensors and the patient. The unique artificial fecal EAP-based sphincter system is driven by an integrated microprocessor, powered by an energy harvesting device and an implantable battery, rechargeable by transcutaneous energy transfer (TCT) controlling the fluid flow intentionally by the patient and automatically with pressure gauges. The remote control will allow the physician to perform patient-specific adjustments. The ring-like sphincters should be optimized with respect to its macroscopic shape concerning function and comfort applying statistical shape models, with respect to its surface architecture and chemistry to prevent infections and achieve implantation procedures as simple as possible. The expected benefits for the patient and their physicians are
a) recovery to continence,
b) short hospitalization periods because of the relatively simple treatment and post-op individual adjustments,
c) guaranteed reliability (minimal failure rates),
d) electronically controlled by integrated sensors and managed by the patient.

This project is evaluated by the Swiss National Science Foundation and funded by with Swiss Confederation financing.


NanoTera Myopowers Artificial Urinary Sphincter


The consortium is a competent, multidisciplinary team, distributed across Switzerland, active in fields ranging from medicine via microelectronics towards biomaterials science with recent experience in the development of sophisticated urinary sphincters.

  • Bert Müller, director, BMC, University of Basel
  • Franc Hetzer, surgeon, cantonal hospitals, Schaffhausen
  • Philippe Büchler, group head, ISTB, University of Bern
  • Lukas Brügger, surgeon, Inselspital Bern
  • Urs Sennhauser, departmental head, Empa Dübendorf

Industrial parter
MyoPowers Medical Technologies SA, Basel


Duration: April 1, 2013 - March 31, 2017
Budget: 6.3 million CHF (2.2 million CHF funded by

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Dr. Simone E. Hieber