In simple terms, this is where engineering principles can apply new design concepts and ideas in a medical setting. Things such as new medical devices and the biological processes of the body in an engineering structure can unite and push medical innovation. Within this new biomedical engineering specialisation, there are many different applications that range from new medical devices, biocompatible prostheses, regenerative tissue growth and therapeutic medications.
This combination of engineering and biology has revolutionised the medical healthcare systems. Though biomedical engineering has been around for longer than most people realise. Even seemingly simple health aids such as walking sticks and wheelchairs can be classed as biomedical engineering. These devices help to assist people in the healing process and are important factors that helped shape the modern version of biomedical engineering we see so often now. The development of engineering at a medical level can now reach new standards of technology as the materials and creativity needed are more accessible.
Nowadays, new assistive technologies and the continuing increase of people reaching older ages make it that bit more valuable as a profession. With an aging population, and a world wide presumption to reach older ages, developments in biomedical technology can influence and even encourage our innate need to maintain optimum health – even at older age.
Here are some examples of biomedical engineering in practice:
• Prosthetic limbs such as arms and hands. A notable example of an artificial limb could be the wooden leg, or peg leg, often portrayed in old pirate films. Although these seem somewhat exaggerated, the essence of the idea has true to life origins. In the beginning of the 16th century, the French military doctor Ambroise Paré invented a mechanical hand that had hinges to allow movement. Fast forward to the present, biomedical engineering allows computer programming to help the hand move according to the wearers needs and wants.
• Medical robotics. Complex surgeries can be made slightly easier through the use of robots. Robot assisted surgery means that otherwise impossible or potentially dangerous surgeries can now be performed. Some life-saving surgeries that need to be performed on very small scales can be made easier through the use of robots. One such example of this is the DaVinci robot. The DaVinci surgical system uses tiny mechanical arms that can be manipulated by a surgeon through the use of 3D imaging. This type of technology can make surgeries much more precise and increase the safety of some procedures.
• New medicine innovations. In this case, biomedical engineers would focus on the discovery of new drugs in the pharmaceutical industry that can change the way medicines are developed, given and even manufactured. A current example of biomedical pharmaceutical engineering is in the development of antibiotics that are more effective against the ever growing amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Another example is the way in which such medications are administered to enable the most effective outcome.
This ever growing need to enhance our quality of life can be remedied through biomedical engineering. It has become a natural progression; growing alongside technology developments and the natural human curiosity to heal our bodies.