Biomedical engineering (also known as bioengineering) is a field that uses knowledge of engineering, biology, and medicine to solve health-related concerns as well as push for technologies that can help humans achieve optimum performance.
Machines routinely used in the medical industry such as CT and CAT scanners, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, and dialysis machines as well as life support systems are products of biomedical engineering as are artificial arms and legs, artificial skin, pacemakers, insulin pumps, and hearing aids.
Aside from these well-known applications of biomedical engineering, bioengineers have also been working on more recent technologies that help people struggling with health-related concerns to live safer, and more comfortable lives.
Below are some examples.
Because the hands of people suffering from movement disorders like Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis can be quite shaky, they tend to spill the food that they are trying to eat before it even reaches their mouth. Biomedical engineers fixed this problem by attaching handles with stabilizing technology to spoons and forks to counter the shaking through the use of sensors that detect unwanted movement then direct motors in the handle to move the spoon to the opposite direction afterwards.
Treatable heart diseases can lead to unfortunate fatalities because of several factors — the patient being too old or too weak to be operated on being one of them. Biomedical engineers worked together to resolve this problem and came up with an artificial valve that allows surgeons to replace a patient’s aortic valve without going through an open heart surgery. They did this by using an inflatable artificial heart valve connected to a catheter that can be inserted above the knee or near the heart.
Biomedical engineers have developed a robotic arm that can be controlled by chips implanted into the brain. The technology, which focuses on the part of the brain that is in charge with telling our bodies that it wants to move, is considered great news as other mind-controlled robotic arms that are being used today relies on the brain region that controls muscles — usually resulting in slow and unstable movements.
“By the age of 14, Easton LaChappelle had made his first robotic hand out of LEGOs, fishing wire and electrical tubing, and through gradual improvements on the initial design, he was eventually able to create an advanced, 3D-printed robotic arm that could be operated with the mind — lighter, stronger, and more functional than other robotic arms in the market, but only for a fraction of the standard cost. Easton has since shared the designs online, allowing everyone to have access to the technology.”
Prahlad Menon, the man behind www.justcallharry.com completed his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA. His specialization lies in evaluating heart scans as well as using advanced mathematical formulas to analyze the flow of blood through the human body which help in the early detection of heart diseases, coming up with corresponding treatments, and planning surgical operations as required.
Tamara Lazić is a mechanical engineer that studies the applications of mechatronics in biomedical engineering. She maintains a personal blog called Purple Cyborg where she publishes a compilation of her notes for school as well as the project she has been working on.
Resources for Further Reading
- Biomedical Engineering: Career, Salary and Education Information
- Recent Biomedical Engineering Breakthroughs That You Should Know About
- A Day in the Life of a Biomedical Engineer
- Paraphlegic Woman Walks Again with the Help of an Exoskeleton Suit
- Iowa LEGO League Championship has kids thinking like biomedical engineers
- Artificial heart makes life without a pulse possible
- Yale Scientific Magazine – College science publication owned by Yale University
- Discover Magazine – Online magazine that offers understandable stories on complex science-related subjects.
- IEEE Pulse – The magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers