In the twentieth century, discoveries in basic sciences (Biochemistry, Physiology, Pharmacology and so forth) began to occur more rapidly. For example, in 1903 William Einthoven devised the first electrocardiograph and measured the electrical changes that occur during the heart-beats. In this process, Einthoven triggered a new dimension for both cardiovascular medicine and electrical measurement techniques. Of all the successive discoveries in a chain reaction, the most significant for clinical medicine was the development of x-rays by Roentegen. In the current decade, tissue engineering has become the hallmark of biomedical engineering. Tissue engineering is the application of biological, chemical and engineering principles towards the repair, restoration and regeneration of living tissue using biomaterials or cells. The purpose of this editorial is to provide a bird’s eye view of the role of technology in shaping our modern health care system and to highlight the possible role which can be played by the biomedical engineers.
The term biomedical engineering appears to have the most comprehensive meaning. Biomedical engineers apply electrical, chemical, optical, mechanical and other engineering principles to understand, modify or control biological (i.e human or animal) systems . Thus, the opportunities for interaction between engineers and health care professionals are many and varied. Many of the problems confronting health professionals today are of extreme importance to the engineers. The medically related design problems can range from very complex large-scale constructs which include automated clinical laboratories, multiphasic screening facilities, hospital information systems, recording electrodes, transducers, remote monitors and telemetry. Even, biomedical engineering may be required in designing and manufacturing of emergency vehicles, operation theatres and intensive care units.
It is clear that bioengineers for the future will have tremendous impact on the quality of human life. The full impact of this specialty is difficult to imagine. However, biomedical engineering spectrum encompasses the following:-
- Production of synthetic vaccines from cloned cells.
§ Invention of new medical diagnostic tests for diseases.
§ Bio environment engineering to protect human, animal and plant life from toxicants and pollutants.
§ Development of improved species of plants and animals for food production.
§ Development of therapeutic proteins and monoclonal antibodies.
§ Application to engineering system analysis (physiological modeling and simulations).
§ Detection, measurement and monitoring of physiological signals (biosensors and biomedical instrumentation).
§ Diagnostic interpretation via signal-processing techniques.
§ Therapeutic and rehabilitation procedures and devices.
§ Devices for replacement (artificial organs).
§ Computer analysis of patient-related data and clinical decision making (i.e medical informatics and artificial intelligence).
§ Development of medical imaging systems.
§ Research in new materials and implants (like cochlear implants, cardiac stents and so forth).
§ Development of new diagnostic instruments for blood analysis.
§ Design of control systems for drug administration.
§ Design of instrumentation for sports medicine.
§ Development of new dental materials.
§ Design of communication aids for individuals with disabilities.
§ Study of biomechanics of the human body.
§ Development of materials to be used as replacement for human skin.
The above-mentioned list is not all-inclusive. The activities of biomedical engineers depend on the medical settings in which they perform their duties. Thus, biomedical engineers working in the hospitals or clinical environment are usually called as a "Clinical Engineers". Clinical engineers are essentially responsible for the high technology instruments and systems used in hospitals today, for the training of medical personnel in equipment safety, and for the use of technology to deliver safe and effective health care .
The field of biomedical engineering offers hope in continuing pursuations to achieve high quality health care at a reasonable cost. It directs towards solving problems related to preventive medical approaches, ambulatory care services and the like. Biomedical engineers can provide the role and techniques to make our health care system more effective and efficient. It is need of the hour that engineers belonging to various disciplines of engineering, medical doctors, dental surgeons, veterinary physicians, physiotherapists, medical rehabilitationists, orthopaedicians, agriculturists and like may focus their attention to adopt biomedical engineering as a profession.Reference
- Bronzino JD editor. Biomedical Engineering Handbook. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2005.
- Enderle JD, Blanchard SM, Bronzino JD. Introduction to Biomedical Engineering. 2nd ed. Burlington: Elsevier Academic Press; 2005. p. 1-29.