Biomedical Engineering: Curing life on canvas of engineering

Throughout the beginning of human history, engineering has driven the advancement in human civilization. It has played a significant role for the development of our civilization.

The world is changing globally day by day and the modern era is having the applications of engineering in almost every field of medicine; so much so that the practice of medicine is now seems completely dependent on the work and support of engineers.

Yet the 21st century has been labeled as the “Biological Century” with the anticipation of reflective implications to future technological breakthroughs both in the medical as well as industrial sectors. In particular, we are moving on the threshold of revolution in biology and medicine with the completion of the sequencing of the human genome research to narrate sequence to expression and eventually to cell and organ function. These gigantic changes entail critical transformation for various segments of industry and for the profession of biomedical engineering.

Biomedical engineering is a new discipline of engineering which is curing health related life issues on canvas of engineering. It has been one of the fastest growing medical career fields in recent years.

As far as history of biomedical engineering is concerned, it has come a long way since Leonardo-da-Vinci (1452-1519) drew his revolutionary pictures of the skeleton and its musculature and studied the mechanics of the flight of birds.

Biomedical engineering could be better defined as the application of the knowledge gained by a cross-fertilization of engineering and the biological sciences so that both will be more utilized for the benefit of mankind.

Biomedical Engineering with expertise in medicine, engineering and technology management playing a pivotal role in determining the potential for implementation and cost effectiveness of new medical technologies through technology assessment.

Biomedical Engineers use engineering principles to solve health related issues and medical problems. They develop techniques, materials, processes, and devices that help prevent or treat disease or rehabilitation of patients. They perform their duties in hospitals, universities, institutes, industry, and clinical research laboratories. They are responsible for the repair and maintenance of the hospital equipments; they investigate medical equipment failure, and advise hospitals about purchasing and installing of new equipments. While at hospitals they carry out safety checks and train practitioners to safely operate equipment.

Apart from that biomedical engineers are also engaged in biomedical research and in its applications for improving quality of life, and in implementing cost-effective solutions for delivery of health care. They perform a lot of research in conjunction with life scientists, technologists and chemists, medical and health care professionals to design medical devices like artificial limbs, hearts, pacemakers, ultrasound diagnostic equipments, dialysis machines, and surgical lasers. They conduct research on diverse biological processes and investigate new ways to modernize laboratory and clinical approaches.

According to the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), the areas of specialization for biomedical engineers include biomaterials; bioinstrumentation; biomechanics; medical imaging; rehabilitation; and cellular, tissue, and genetic engineering. Biomedical engineers who specialize in biomaterials develop materials that can be safely implanted in the body. Engineers who pursue their career in biomechanics apply principles from physics to biological systems. They develop artificial organs, such as the artificial heart (pacemaker). Biomedical engineers who focus on bioinstrumentation utilize ICT applications or other electronic devices to diagnose or treat disease. A rehabilitation engineer helps to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Biomedical Engineers related with Tissue and cellular studies develop cells outside of the body to be implanted in the body and serve some function.

These are some evidences of biomedical engineering which can be found everywhere in modern medicine and complexities of human life. Hospitals are full of such equipments, devices, instruments and machines that have been designed and produced by biomedical engineers working in collaboration with health care professionals like doctors, nurses, biochemists, physicists, microbiologists, technologists and technicians. No any hospital can perform without having a biomedical engineering department, particularly hospitals which are into tertiary and secondary care. In a hospital or clinical area a biomedical engineer not only takes care of equipments and instruments being used there but also forms an integral part of the hospitals management team. He is the one who constantly keeps himself abreast of the new technologies that are happening.

The biggest challenge in biomedical engineering field is that medical technology is vast and hence it is changing so fast that it is very important to keep abreast of this changing technology.

As the health care sector is grooming day by day and becoming corporatized the role of biomedical engineer in a corporate hospital has changed dramatically and need of this department is going to be high. The basic problem for the hospitals is that the number of biomedical engineers is limited. There are not enough courses too. Therefore, there must be more number of courses should started to agitate more number of engineers to cater this need.

While as biomedical engineering and its applications will continue to flourish, we will face new challenges and greatly enhanced opportunities. Meeting these dynamic challenges and capitalizing the health sector opportunities will make biomedical engineering the cornerstone for future technological advances to research in biology and medicine in conjunction with engineering and technology, to maintain human health perspective and sustain delivery of health care.

In nutshell we must be aware that new trends in medical technologies are going to evolve in this century and that these technologies will be based on fundamental biological discoveries and engineering principles. It is clear that because of the projected increase in the health care sector there exists a tremendous potential in the health care sector, and there is a pressing requirement for biomedical engineers in near future.

Hence there seems to be no edge to what engineering could achieve further to revolutionize medical practice. In fact, the next generation of biomedical engineers will probably develop things we cant even yet imagine.

The writer is Chairman Biomedical Association of Students for Excellence (BASE), B.E. (Biomedical Engineering), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, Sindh, Pakistan.

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