Biomedical engineering is one of the fastest growing fields of engineering. With a 27% increase in recent years (according to the Bureau of Labor 2021), there have been new innovations in everything from vaccines, prosthetics, imaging technology and more. With so much growth, it’s not surprising that what was once science fiction is now becoming reality as engineers push the boundaries of science, medicine, and healthcare.
What is Biomedical Engineering?
Biomedical engineering (or medical engineering) is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and healthcare. It covers a wide variety of medical topics and often is involved in the newest breakthroughs in the healthcare field. Where other types of engineering deal with the environment, machinery, construction, etc. all of biomedical engineering will deal with the health and the human body.
Trends in Biomedical Engineering:
Biomedical engineering is a constantly evolving field and recent years are seeing trends that are changing the way we approach healthcare. Some of the most popular trends include:
Wearable Health Monitoring Devices
This type of technology has taken healthcare and wellness by storm. These types of devices are worn by an individual either externally or internally and can monitor things like heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. The devices will either store the information or transfer it daily to the patient or healthcare professionals. This technology is proving incredibly useful for patients with chronic illnesses who need daily monitoring as well as the fitness enthusiast who wants to keep a check on calories burned during a workout.
Gene Editing Technology
This type of technology allows scientists to manipulate the genes that makeup an organism’s DNA, potentially allowing us to cure genetic diseases in the future. While the ethical debate continues around this type of technology, the fact remains that this may be revolutionary for patients suffering from incurable diseases in the future.
This is a relatively new type of technology and has the potential to completely change the way we think about organ and tissue transplants. Bioprinting uses 3D printing to make tissues and organs using live cells and biomaterials. This technology could replace the need for organ donors in the future.
Nanorobots are introducing robots to the human body at a micro level! These tiny robots are usually only a few nanometers long and are programmed to monitor and record all sorts of different things inside the human body. The uses for this could include drug delivery, cancer monitoring, drug distribution, blood cell count, etc. While this technology is in its infant stages it holds great potential for the future.
Also known as AI, artificial intelligence is changing the way we predict the future in medicine. Engineers are using machines to analyze vast amounts of data and put it all into an algorithm. This information could help us better diagnose patients and suggest medical treatment in the future as well as predict prognosis in the case of terminal illness.
Newest Biomedical Engineering Breakthroughs:
Some of the biomedical breakthroughs in recent years are bringing science fiction out of the movies and into real life. Many of these devices are already helping patients in real time while others are sure to change lives in the next five years.
The AbioCor Artificial Heart
In 2021, medical professionals in Louisville KY established a new generation of an artificial heart in a patient. While doctors have used artificial hearts before, this technology is revolutionary as it lives completely inside the human body and has no tubes or valves to the outside. The battery is kept separately that the patient can wear on a belt. This allows patients full autonomy, a new feature for this field.
Another organ replacement advancement, a new bio-artificial liver has been developed that is composed of both manufactured and biological parts. By doing this, it allows the patient’s own blood to circulate through the device, greatly reducing the chance of organ rejection. In 2001, Time Magazine named this the invention of the year and the technology has only continued to improve since then.
The Camera Pill
This technology is exactly what it sounds like; a tiny camera housed in what looks like a pill capsule. The camera pill is now used by professionals to detect the earliest stages of cancer and other diseases and was designed to take photos of the smallest spaces inside the human body.
Berkeley Bionics Exoskeleton
Also called eLEGS, this device was developed for patients suffering from paraplegia. It is easy to wear and is a complete set of bionic, artificial intelligent, legs. This technology allows users who were previously unable to move on their own the ability to stand, walk, and even climb stairs.
Bionic Contact Lens
Developed by the University of Washington in Seattle, this device brings the common contact lens together with an imprinted electronic circuit. This allows users to see images from all over the world by superimposing them over their own vision. This technology could be used by pilots in the future to show them everything from the weather to maps while operating a plane. It can also be used to monitor various health conditions in the body, such as cholesterol level or the presence of bacteria, and send the information to medical professionals.
What does the future hold?
With so much new innovation, the field of biomedical engineering will only continue to grow in the future. New technologies will change the way we live, the way we interact with disease, and how we monitor our health in the future. This advancement is critical for curing some of the world’s greatest epidemic diseases and finding answers to the most challenging medical questions.