Cartoon representation of the molecular structure of protein

Bioengineers are creating a new and exciting medical technology. This technology will utilize virtual reality to help surgeons reconstruct facial birth defects.
— Fun and Exciting Facts About Engineering

Biomedical engineers work in different areas of medicine focusing on various ways that technology can be used to treat or alleviate biological or medical problems.

Bioengineers design and develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems. They develop and evaluate systems and products such as artificial organs, prostheses, instruments, medical information systems, and health management and care delivery systems. They work with doctors and health care specialists to design and build components and systems that aid and improve the physical well being of humans. These include diagnostic devices (e.g. blood sugar sensors for diabetics) and body repair or replacement parts such as artificial hips or prosthetic legs. Examples of new challenges include developing organ replacements and sensors to monitor body chemistry.

Biomedical engineering (BME) combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to advance healthcare treatment, including diagnosis, monitoring, and therapy. Some areas of study within Biomedical engineering include Tissue engineering, Genetic engineering, Neural engineering, Pharmaceutical engineering and Clinical engineering. Engineers are working to improve medical devices in the areas of medical imaging, [/Prosthetics implants and bionics].

These are some areas of BioMedical engineering

  • Tiny aquatic bio-bots swim, powered by heart cells – could be used for applications such as delivering medication to targeted areas of the body. The body of each bio-bot is made up of a joined head and tail, which together measure a little under 2 mm in length. They’re made of an inert flexible polymer called polydimethylsiloxane, which is a type of silicone.
  • Transplant rejection sensor paves way for body-integrated electronics. The challenge is to bridge the gap between the affordable, silicon-based electronics we already know how to build, and the electrochemical systems of the human body.
  • microfluidic devices — tiny networks of pipes the size of human hairs that transport fluids at high speeds. These devices are often used by pharmaceutical companies in the discovery of new drugs. Other applications include stem cell growth and cancer research. The tubes in the devices are so small, they can process each cell individually. When dealing with cancerous blood cells, for example. a researcher could test a new drug on individual cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells in the blood.
  • Micro Robots Could Prevent Blindness – In the future, ophthalmologists may be able to inject a microrobots into a patient’s eye to progressively monitor the levels of oxygen within their retinas, potentially fending off blindness. The robot must maneuver itself close to the retina. It has to have light generator and detector. It also has to send the oxygen level data to an external instrument for the ophthalmologist to read. The propulsion system in the robot has to move the underwater robot like a submarine.
    • Fluid Dynamics: How a robot (like a submarine) moves under the water. For a given shape what are the drags under different speeds?
    • Control Theory: What kind of control surfaces are needed to maneuver the robot in the water? What is the effect of moving a control surface certain mount to the movement of the robot?
    • Communication: How to pass information remotely between the robot and the surgeon?
    • Engineering Mechanics: How to design the mechanism of the robot manipulator?
    • MEMS (Micro Electronics Mechanical Systems): To build such a micro robot the traditional mechanical system is too big. We need to borrow the technology used in microelectronics to build the robot.
    • Since it will be used as a medical device safety is critical. The device must be 100% reliable. Technical feasibility is challenging, however, to be practical reliability is a must.

Meet the people in BioMeducal Engineering

  • Jessica helps design life-saving medical devices for patients with heart disease.
  • Lori Laird (Biomedical Engineer) – Biomedical Engineer, Guidant Corporation. – designing non-invasive instruments and tools for use by vascular surgeons in the treatment of blocked arteries; works with manufacturing personnel on issues of design for manufacturing and quality control.

Electronic skin talks to computer

Electronic skin, a tiny, nearly invisible devices stick to skin ‘talks’ to computers. This new device measures the body in different ways. Electronic skin can record temperature, muscle motion or the electrical activity on a person’s skin.

  • Ask – On the skin of sick patients, it can track vital signs and watch for problems, replacing the bulky equipment usually found in hospitals. What are the problems with the current technologies?
  • Imagine – The device’s possible users — patients, athletes, doctors, secret agents, you — are limited only by their imaginations. How small can they go?
  • Design, Build – Designing devices for the body require studying how it functions, down to a tiny, cellular level. What are some of the technological challenges to making this solution work? What is the next step to making this available to more patients?
  • Improve – The goal is to develop a piece of electronic material that is also basically completely invisible to the user who barely even feels that the device is on their body. What improvements are being considered?

That’s engineering

  • sensor – a device that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a ‘signal’ which can be read by an observer or by an instrument.
  • inert – something that is not chemically active. The noble gases were described as being inert because they did not react with the other elements or themselves.

Engineering ideas

  • genes, genetic engineering, lasers, DNA sequence, nano switches, materials science, electroencephalography, epidermis, silicon, inert

Do it
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • think about the features that are required to replace skin with a new “material”. Design a material with these characteristics.
  • design and build a model of a hip replacement. Think about all the forces and movements required. How would it attach to the person?
  • Sugar shake (game-based learning, app, free) – Explore the structure and function of ten of the tiny proteins that break down sugar in the cell. In each level, tilt different sugars to their matching proteins, setting off chemical reactions and avoiding obstacles.

Learn more…