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Emerging Trends in Biomedical Engineering

Emerging Trends in Biomedical Engineering

engineers working with biomed equipment

Biomedical engineers bring an interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach to biology and medicine. It allows them to develop technologies and systems that directly contribute to diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases. New technologies, recent advancements in artificial intelligence and other scientific breakthroughs are driving many innovative bioengineering developments.1

This post will explore some of the latest biomedical engineering trends and advancements, and the significant impact they stand to have on a constantly evolving field.

Integration of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

The technology of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly machine learning (ML), is rapidly evolving on all fronts, including in biomedical engineering. For example, deep learning algorithms can analyze medical imaging, such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. These models can be trained to diagnose conditions such as cancer, where early and accurate detection significantly improves treatment outcomes.2

AI is also being used to analyze massive patient datasets for risk factors for diseases. These predictive models can uncover hidden patterns that can help healthcare providers improve patient care by predicting the likelihood of diseases. With this information, physicians can intervene earlier and provide personalized medicine for better patient outcomes.3

Precision Medicine and Genomic Engineering

Throughout most of modern medical history, doctors have based healthcare decisions on how the average patient would respond. Standard practices were based on research and studies published in medical journals. Precision medicine, though, is based on individual factors within human health, such as the patient’s diet, exercise habits, genes and environment.4

Biomedical engineers in pharmacogenomics are developing strategies for using a patient’s DNA to determine how that person will respond to a particular medicine. The goal of pharmacogenomics is to reduce negative side effects and improve safety by providing the “right drug at the right dose at the right time for the right patient.”5

CRISPR-Cas9 is a groundbreaking gene-editing technology that allows biomedical engineers to add, remove or alter genetic material at precise locations in the genome. It works like molecular scissors, guided by an RNA sequence to the specific DNA sequence that needs editing.6

Although it will probably be some time before this technology is commonly used in medical treatments, it has the potential to improve human health by treating many types of genetic diseases, such as cancer and high blood pressure.6

Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

In the United States, over 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a transplant, and 17 people die every day waiting for one.7 With biomaterials, biomanufacturing and tissue engineering, biomedical engineers are working on addressing this problem by creating functional, lab-grown organs that can be used for transplantation, such as kidneys, hearts and lungs. Scientists have been able to grow and transplant 3D-printed bladders from a patient’s own cells, and lab-grown blood was recently used in transfusions.8

This is another frontier in biomedical engineering. Although the concept has been around since the 1980s, it wasn’t until 2008 that the first completely tissue-engineered organ–a trachea–was transplanted into a patient. New advances in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering use stem cells to regenerate damaged or degenerated tissues. These cells can be placed in structures that are designed to promote cell growth and then directed to become specific types of human cells, such as muscle or skin tissue.9

Nanotechnology in Medicine

Nanotechnology has the potential for broad applications in medicine due to its extremely small size–a nanometer is one billionth of a meter.10 Biomedical engineers are researching nanoparticles for drug delivery applications because of their ability to deliver drugs with extreme precision in targeted locations such as tumors. Such targeted delivery methods increase the efficacy of medication and reduce the negative effects on healthy cells.11

Nanodiagnostics incorporates the use of nanomaterials to make diagnoses from single-molecule systems. Nanomaterials can detect disease biomarkers in molecules, providing rapid diagnoses for infectious diseases, often before symptoms appear. This technology is especially promising in developing countries where traditional diagnostic methods are often slow, inaccurate and expensive, putting them out of range for many patients.12

Point-of-Care Diagnostics

In addition to, and often through the use of, nanodiagnostics, biomedical engineers are developing point-of-care diagnostic systems to facilitate rapid, on-site medical testing. Traditional diagnostics often involve extra appointments, specialized technicians, long wait times and low efficiency.13

Point-of-care diagnostic devices are small and easy to use, even under less-than-ideal conditions. Healthcare providers can use these devices in clinics, hospitals, ambulances and at home. Combining point-of-care devices with nanotechnology is one of the most recent developments in biomedical engineering. The combination has been used to detect the Hepatitis B virus and biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.13

Ethical Considerations in Biomedical Engineering

Human advancement and well-being are at the forefront of issues in biomedical engineering. However, the exponential growth rate of technology brings with it ethical challenges regarding its impact on society. To ensure technological advances are guided by ethics and sustainability, biomedical engineering educational programs include ethical considerations as part of their curricula.14

According to the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, the five pillars for ethical and sustainable biomedical engineering that should be included in biomedical engineering educational programs are:14

  • Ethics fundamentals for professional practice
  • Safe medical devices and technologies
  • Sustainable medical devices and technologies
  • Achieving technological equity and universal healthcare
  • Ethics applied to biomedical engineering’s future research challenges

Looking Ahead: Medical Technology and Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering is at the forefront of an evolution: It’s one of the fastest-growing engineering fields because of rapid technological advancement in medicine. Some of the most exciting possibilities of the near future include:15

  • Telesurgery, in which surgical procedures are performed remotely
  • Tissue engineering for research and development
  • Medical virtual reality tools that can create more accurate images and models of a patient’s body

Become a Leader in Biomedical Engineering

Case Western Reserve’s Online MS in Biomedical Engineering program empowers you with the knowledge and skills you need to become an innovative leader as a biomedical engineer. Led by a faculty of experts, this practice-oriented program flexes around your full-time job, family responsibilities and social life, empowering you to study on your schedule from any location.

Don’t wait to gain the qualifications that can advance your career. Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor today.

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