Biomedical engineering is a huge topic nowadays – especially with COVID19 circulating the globe. Biomedical engineering (often known as medical engineering) is the term used for the combination of biology and engineering or applying engineering materials to medicine and healthcare. BME (biomedical engineering) is very important for the healthcare industry – from advancing medical treatments to monitoring a condition – without it the healthcare industry would be very unreliable.
BME was first introduced by Alfred E. Mann who was a physicist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. The sector has developed heaps and bounds since it was first introduced in the 1970s and had its first dedicated institution built in 1998 at the University of Southern California. Especially during the last few years, BME has been extremely important for improving healthcare and medical devices. Most biomedical engineers are employed for scientific research, pharmaceutical companies, and manufacturing firms. It was in 1993 when five biomedical engineers in Edinburgh created the first functional bionic arm – also know as the Edinburgh Modular Arm System. This specific arm consisted of miniature motors, microchips and grips which allowed the artificial fingers to grip on objects along with a twistable wrist. In this decade, bionic arms are so much more advanced and expensive. In today’s era, prosthetic arms are made from strong, durable lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and have a very different structure. “Nowadays, implants are placed in the sensory system to control nerve action, rather than devices attached to the body by straps or artificially powered,” Jacky Finch, a researcher in the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester said.
As technology has developed, so has biomedical engineering. Within the last decade we have accessed the most scientific details due to the advanced electronics assisting us. Continue reading to learn how biomedical engineering has evolved and what we can expect in the future.
COVID19 is a virus which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome and is shown to display symptoms between 6 and 41 days, with the most common being 14 days. The virus first broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and spread across the globe within weeks. So much so that WHO declared to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. It is a worldwide concern that there is a shortage of ventilators available in order to support patients with this lift threatening illness. For many patients critically ill with COVID-19 – a ventilator could be a matter of life or death. The structure of the machine is to get oxygen to the lungs while removing carbon dioxide which is essential for patients who are too sick to breathe on their own. BME plays a huge part in manufacturing these breathing devices and ensuring they are compatible. Not only this, ventilators are very difficult to manufacturer due to its unique structure and programming. “These are extremely sensitive machines with not only a lot of hardware, but also a lot of software. If one of the components does not work correctly, the whole machine shuts down and cannot be used anymore,” Jens Hallek, CEO at Hamilton Medical said. However, large, and small companies are joining forces in order to tackle the virus once and for all. According to the Daily Mail, a family run engineering company located in Wales are developing a new ventilator to treat the patients. It is said they are on route to producing 100 ventilators a day. Engineers CR Clarke – who usually design plastic fabrication equipment for industry – were approached by Dr Rhys Thomas ( NHS Senior ) who was concerned at the lack of intensive care unit ventilators.
Weaknesses of BME
Biomedical engineering is a very praised profession and industry. However, there is some controversy when it comes to changing the fate of someone’s life by an unnatural source – such as ventilators, bionic prosthetics etc. Most people have questioned the morality of BME because it is not what was intended. By some it is viewed as a form of mutilation of the existing species. Not only this, in some rare cases, Biomedical engineering could potentially cause harm towards for humans without realising. BME may cause the development of drug resistant pathogens.
Strengths of BME
In times like this with COVID19 spreading across the globe, we are fortunate that BME is so advanced and successful. Bioengineering has played a very vital role in ensuring that common diseases are defeated. Through genetic modification, some diseases have been defeated while others have been neutralized. There is always the possibility of living longer thanks to the technology and modification brought about by Bioengineering. Scientists have been able to extend the life of some organisms by a few years.
As you can image, due to Coronavirus the demand for the most advanced biomedical engineers has rocketed. Many organisations such as car manufactures have joined forces in rapidly producing ventilators. A ventilator specialist is drawing on manufacturing support from firms including Formula 1 teams McLaren and Mercedes, Ford, Siemens and Meggitt. Tesla are doing a great job at contributing to tackle the virus. Stated from Forbes, the coronavirus crisis has led Elon Musk to jump into the medical device industry, with SpaceX fabricating components for Medtronic MDT ventilators, corporate donations of BiPAP breathing machines that can be modified for use as non-invasive ventilators and promising to use a Tesla TSLA factory to produce ventilators. Now Tesla engineers have designed a prototype ventilator that uses parts adapted from electric vehicles. Biomedical engineers are in high demand in order to keep on top of the safety trends which this virus is causing globally. Now, I cannot see this industry disappearing anytime soon.
By Amy Leary, Marketing Manager at eBOM.com