This is a sponsored post from Digi-Key. Written by Jennifer Boscavage
Popular sci-fi TV shows such as Westworld and Altered Carbon feature topics concerning robotics, artificial intelligence and biometrics, so increasing numbers of college-bound students are learning about the biomedical engineering field. Such human-mechanical hybridization piques the curiosity of engineers and the media exposure offers a great showcase for what is possible within the biomedical engineering sector.
A fast-growing discipline, biomedical engineering attracts those who have technical skills as well as an interest in medicine, and an inquisitive nature about how technology can — and will — influence the future.
Jobs for biomedical engineers will grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those jobs are on the rise because the aging population in the United States is likely to need more medical care, and the public’s awareness of biomedical engineering advances and their benefits is growing.
Bioengineering fields need manufacturing engineers, as well as those focused on quality, materials and software. A number of subfields comprise biomedicine.
Biomaterials and Biomechanics
Much of the demand for biomedical engineers stems from the demand for biomedical devices and procedures geared toward providing medical help to the aging baby boomer generation. Bioengineers design and develop materials to use inside human bodies, such as hip and knee replacements as well as heart valves. The materials used to manufacture the implants must be totally safe for patients: structurally sound, free of toxic substances and chemically stable. To prevent the body from rejecting the implanted device, some biomaterials make use of living cells for better assimilation.
Cellular, Tissue and Genetic Engineering
Working on the microscopic level, these engineers focus on cellular activity to understand how diseases spread and progress, and develop ways to remedy or halt them. Genetic engineers can alter the DNA in an organism’s genome and have worked with various organisms from viruses to corn to sheep. For instance, plants that have a higher nutritional value or are resistant to herbicides are products of genetic engineering. Treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have also advanced using genetic engineering. Additionally, the relatively new CRISPR gene editing method uses molecular biology to change genes, with results that are virtually indistinguishable from natural mutations.
Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Bioengineering
Orthopedic bioengineers design and develop implants for bones, muscles, joints and ligaments that help with movement. The devices can work with the surrounding tissues, or they may completely replace certain bones, muscles, joints or ligaments. Rehabilitation engineers focus on designing and developing prosthetics, so patients can regain the use of damaged body parts.
The Way Forward
As technology continues to impact every facet of our lives, medicine is keeping pace. Integration of the two fields — medicine and engineering — is paving the way for a future in which the disabled have more mobility, the sick have more treatment options and crops are more disease resistant.