Biological engineering, also known as bioengineering, is the application of biological principles and engineering tools to create usable, tangible, and economically viable products. Bioengineering is the application of engineering knowledge to the fields of medicine and biology. A bioengineer can work in a variety of fields. Providing artificial means to assist defective body functions, such as hearing aids, artificial limbs, and supportive or substitute organs, is one of these. In a different direction, a bioengineer might use engineering methods to achieve biosynthesis of animal or plant products, such as for fermentation processes. Bioengineering thus focuses on improving human health and promoting environmental sustainability, two of the world's most pressing challenges.
BIO-ENGINEERING AS A SPECIFIC FIELD
• Bioengineering began to grow more rapidly after WWII, partly as a result of British scientist and broadcaster Heinz Wolff coining the term "bioengineering" at the National Institute for Medical Research in 1954.
• During 1950s, medical electronics sessions dominated bioengineering conferences. Blood-flow dynamics, prosthetics, biomechanics (dynamics of body motion and material strength), biological heat transfer, biomaterials, and others continue to be major areas of interest for medical instrumentation and medical electronics.
• Bioengineering arose from specific desires or needs, such as surgeons' desire to bypass the heart, the need for replacement organs, and the need for life support in space, among other things. Between the engineer and the life scientist, there was a communication breakdown.
• To solve this problem, engineers began to research not only the subject matter but also the methods and techniques used by their medical, physiology, psychology, and biology counterparts.
• Finally, engineering schools developed bioengineering courses and curricula in response to a need to assist in overcoming the communication barrier as well as to prepare engineers for the future.
BRANCHES OF BIO-ENGINEERING
• MEDICAL ENGINEERING
Engineering principles are applied to medical problems, such as the replacement of damaged organs, instrumentation, and health-care systems, including computer-assisted diagnostics.
• AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING
Engineering principles are applied to problems in biological production as well as the external operations and environment that influence it.
The study of living systems in order to apply what has been learned to the design of physical systems.
• BIOCHEMICAL ENGINEERING
Biochemical engineering encompasses fermentation engineering, which is the application of engineering principles to microscopic biological systems that are used to synthesise new products, such as protein, from suitable raw materials.
• HUMAN-FACTORS ENGINEERING
Engineering, physiology, and psychology are all used to improve the human–machine relationship.
• ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH ENGINEERING
Engineering principles are applied to the control of the environment for human health, comfort, and safety. It encompasses the field of life-support systems for space and ocean exploration.
• GENETIC ENGINEERING
The artificial manipulation, modification, and recombination of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or other nucleic acid molecules in order to modify an organism is referred to as genetic engineering. The techniques employed in this field have led to the production of medically important products, including human insulin, human growth hormone, and hepatitis B vaccine.
Along with the discovery of the atom and space flight, genetic engineering may be one of the most significant breakthroughs in recent history. There are, however, a number of drawbacks and possible risks associated with it.
BIGGEST BIO-ENGINEERING R&D TRENDS
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine used a special 3D printer to create tissues that thrived when implanted in rodents.
2. TRANSDERMAL PATCHES
Transdermal patches have come a long way since they were first used to help people quit smoking. Scientists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University have developed a transdermal patch containing drugs that aid in the fight against obesity. These compounds are released through hundreds of biodegradable microneedles in the patch that barely penetrate the skin, rather than being taken orally or by injection. The drugs are slowly released into the body as the needles dissolve.
3. WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY
Flexible, waterproof, and stretchable sensors, wires, and electronics can be 3D-printed or woven into the fabric.
Smart clothing regulates body temperature with the help of special polymers and humidity-responsive vents that open only when they're needed. Individualized temperature control via clothing has been suggested as a way to save up to 15% on heating and cooling costs in a building.
Researchers are still looking for new ways to deliver drugs selectively to specific target areas while avoiding harm to healthy cells and tissue. Microbubbles, which are very small, gas-filled particles the size of microns, are one novel approach.
Without the use of ultrasound, microbubbles can be treated with a substance that causes them to adhere to tumours.
5. PRIME EDITING
The success of base editing and CRISPR-Cas9 technology has led to the development of this new gene-editing technique. Prime editing rewrites DNA by adding, removing, or replacing base pairs on a single strand. This method, unlike existing genome-editing approaches such as CRISPR-Cas9, allows researchers to edit a wider range of genetic mutations.
Chips enable the creation of microscale models that simulate human physiology outside of the body. To better understand tissue behaviour, disease progression, and pharmaceutical interactions, organs-on-chips are used to study the behaviour of tissues and organs in tiny, but fully functional, sample sizes.
7. MINI BIOREACTORS
Bioreactors are biologically active organisms and their by-products support systems. Smaller bioreactors are more manageable and require fewer samples. Microscale bioreactors that incorporate enzymes or other biocatalysts, as well as precision extraction systems, can now be designed to produce highly pure products, thanks to advances in microfluidic fabrication capabilities.
Miniature bioreactors with more unusual flow paths or specially designed culture chambers should be possible as 3D printing becomes more refined.