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The Impact Of Engineering Innovations In Medicine (Essay Sample)




By (Name)
3rd March 2018
The Impact of Engineering Innovations in Medicine
This essay discusses the role of engineering innovations in near-term transformations of the medical field. Engineering is a multi-disciplinary field and cannot be restricted to its more familiar aspects such as chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. The essay explores several other interdisciplinary subjects derived from the extension of engineering concepts to healthcare applications. These sub-disciplines are micro-technology, nanotechnology, neuro-engineering, and 3D bio-printing. More specifically, the impact of novel engineering applications for healthcare purposes is evaluated based on their impact in the field of medicine over the next five years. Finally, the essay closes with a re-statement of the developments in engineering that are assessed to transform medicine.
Microtechnology and Nanotechnology
Examples of the evolution in engineering that promise to lead to near-term improvements in health care outcomes are microtechnology and nanotechnology. While each of these terms reflects the manipulation of material at miniaturized levels, they have meaningful differences in definition. For instance, microtechnology refers to the manipulation of materials at the micrometer scale (Albers, Deigendesch, Turki and Müller, 2010) while Nanotechnology refers to the manipulation of quantum-realm scale, that is, at the atomic, molecular, and supramolecular level (Arora et al., 2014). Nonetheless, miniaturization is a firmly mechanical engineering concept that has found use in healthcare applications (Albers, Deigendesch, Turki and Müller, 2010).
Microtechnology has led to the development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) embedded in medical devices such as blood pressure sensors, stents, and bio-sensors. Over the next five years, applications of innovations in microtechnology will lead to development of Bio-MEMS in microneedles, microsurgical tools, microfluidics, medical implants, and tissue engineering (Kim, Park and Prausnitz, 2012; Chung, Lee, Khademhosseini and Lee, 2012; Volpatti and Yetisen, 2014; Ranamukhaarachchi et al., 2016). Between 2018 and 2021, the BioMEMS market will grow to a US$6.6 to US$7.6 billion market (Mounier, Troadec, Girardin and Mouly, 2016). In particular, BioMEMS technology has been incorporated into lab-on-a-chip devices that integrate laboratory experiments into single chips, substantially lowering the costs of laboratory tests and improving diagnostic outcomes.
Nanotechnology has been behind the deployment of nanobots for enhanced drug delivery. Nanorobots for drug delivery are a very particular application of nanotechnology and, while they may appear far-fetched, are already in use. For instance, research findings published in 2012 regarding the use of nanorobots in cancer therapy developed rapidly to human trials in 2015 (Douglas, Bachelet, and Church, 2012; Leukemia Research Foundation, 2014; Amir, Abu-Horowitz and Bachelet, 2015; Wang, 2015). These advancements in miniaturization promise to increase access to healthcare and reduce errors in diagnosis and treatment (Owen et al., 2014).
Neural Engineering
Another area where innovations in engineering will improve healthcare over the next five years is in neural engineering or neuro-engineerings. A dramatically new sub-specialty within the field of biomedical engineering, neuro-engineering promises radical improvements in the repair, enhancement, and replacement of neural systems (He et al., 2013; Klein et al., 2015). This field is concerned with how neural systems can interact with and augment artificial devices. Engineering principles are essential to modeling synaptic transmission and in the design of neural code generators (Dubreuil, Amit, and Brunel, 2014; Gallivan and Culham, 2015). Immediately recognizable examples of solutions utilizing these engineering concepts include prosthetics responsive to human thought. Other applications include electrocorticography for safer and non-invasive implants (ECoG) (Lebedev and Nicolelis, 2017), neural networks for modeling mental disorders (Markram, 2014), deep-brain stimulation (DBS) to treat Parkinson’s diseases (Schuepbach et al., 2013), among much more.
Neuro-prosthetics, however, provide directly demonstrable benefits and deserve additional commentary. The human nervous system is, on the whole, a system of circuits that rely on “switches” to transmit neural signals from point to point (Kiernan and Rajakumar, 2013). This biological system is based on genetic proteins at the cellular and molecular levels. However, the system has mechanics that make it modelable through electrical engineering principles (Muller et al., 2015). Innovations in modeling these bio-electrical mechanics have enabled development of far responsive and non-invasive prosthetics for amputees. Take for instance the DEKA Arm System (Borgia, Latlief, Sasson and Smurr-Walters, 2014; Resnik, Klinger and Etter, 2014). The prosthetic arm system was the very first neuro-prosthetic to receive FDA approval in 2014 as part of a larger federal-funded prosthetic arm program. Hancock et al. (2016) document improved the quality of life and functional measures for amputees selecting to receive the system. Deployment of this high-performing and reliable particular arm system relies especially on advances in precision amplifier technology, which, in turn, rely on electrical engineering principles. Over the next five years, these cortical prosthetics and other neuro-engineering technologies will restore autonomy to amputees and patients with neuromuscular injuries (Chan et al., 2012).
3D Bio-printing
Another perhaps, even more, innovation in 3D bio-printing or bimolecular printing. Once again, perfecting the application of 3D printing at a cellular and molecular level requires understanding the principles of shape disposition and multi-material micro casting. Due to the difficulties in achieving successful cellular printing, 3D bio-printing is a very recent development, with the very first patent for this process was granted in the United States as recently as 2006 (Doyle, 2014; Chia and Wu, 2015). In fact, the inaugural production platform for 3D printed biomaterial, the NovoGen MMX Bio-printer, was unveiled in 2009 (Ozbolat and Yu, 2013). Due to this recency, the field also goes by several other terms including computer-aided tissue engineering and organ printing.
However, the technology holds great promise. The technology has been used to print tissue models for pharmaceutical testing, organ models as biomedical templates, and implants for regenerative medicine. Already, several researchers report having successfully printed human organs such as the human liver, ear cartilage, and miniature renal tissue (Singh, Ahmed, and Abhilash, 2015; Wang et al., 2016). Applications of these biodegradable tissue analogs are a decade or so away (Ozbolat and Yu, 2013). Immediate utility of this technology, however, is realizable in drug testing and screening and as templates for physiological experiments and cell culture. King, Presnell, and Nguyen (2014) report the superior performance of a 3D bio printed human breast disease model for the screening of chemotherapeutic drugs. Kucukgul et al. (2015) demonstrate the utility of 3D bioprinting in generating a biomimetic cardiovascular disease model. Over the next several years, use of these physiologically relevant in vivo-like systems will lead to efficient, cheaper, and accurate drug development.
Engineering is, by definition, an interdisciplinary domain with various extensions in different fields. The expansion of engineering innovations into health care applications is, therefore, poised to intensify and deliver greater patient safety and therapy outcomes. This essay has highlighted the areas where these two disciplines intersect. Also, the essay has provided an examination of what this intersection means for health care over the next five years. As already stated, physicians and patients stand to benefit significantly from engineering innovations. Indeed, these innovations enable doctors to deploy a greater variety of solutions during disease treatment and management. Therefore, physicians that embrace an inter-disciplinary approach involving health care professionals and engineers stand an even better chance of achieving better treatment outcomes. In concussion, as the two disciplines continue to evolve, professionals should be encouraged to foster accelerated information exchange.
Albers, A., Deigendesch, T., Turki, T. and Müller, T., 2010. Patterns for design in microtechnology. Microsystem Technologies, 16(8-9), pp.1537-1545.
Amir, Y., Abu-Horowitz, A. and Bachelet, I., 2015. Folding and Characterization of a Bio-responsive Robot from DNA Origami. JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments), (106), pp.e51272-e51272.
Arora, S.K., Youtie, J., Carley, S., Porter, A.L. and Shapira, P., 2014. Measuring the development of a common scientific lexicon in nanotechnology. Journal of nanoparticle research, 16(1), p.2194.
Borgia, M., Latlief, G., Sasson, N. and Smurr-Walters, L., 2014. Self-reported and performance-based outcomes using DEKA Arm. Journal of rehabilitation research and development, 51(3), p.351.
Chan, M., Estève, D., Fourniols, J.Y., Escriba, C. and Campo, E., 2012. Smart wearable systems: Current status and future challenges. Artificial intelligence in medicine, 56(3), pp.137-156.
Chia, H.N. and Wu, B.M., 2015. Recent advances in 3D printing of biomaterials. Journal of biological engineering, 9(1), p.4.
Chung, B.G., Lee, K.H., Khademhosseini, A. and Lee, S.H., 2012. Microfluidic fabrication of microengineered hydrogels and thei...
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