What is Biomedical Engineering?
Biomedical Engineering, sometimes called Bio-engineering or BME for short, is a multidisciplinary field that applies engineering principles and materials in the world of medicine and healthcare.
The field of Biomedical Engineering integrates multiple engineering disciplines and striking technological breakthroughs. Some of these advancements include state-of-the-art imaging technologies, miniaturization of electronic components by using “live” engineered materials and tissues, smart bio-sensors and three-dimensional (3D) printing of tissues. To this list we can add specific innovations such as using miniature biological sensors for the continuous monitoring of viruses, bacteria and cancer cells, utilizing nano-robots for drug delivery, lab-on-a-chip for quick diagnostics, bio-photonics to observe life processes on the cellular or tissue levels, and more. These technologies will enable early detection of diseases, administration of effective care and means to improve patients’ quality of life.
Sub-fields of Biomedical Engineering with a plethora of research opportunities include, among many others: biomedical electronics, biomaterials, tissue engineering, medical imaging, rehabilitation bio-engineering, biomechanics, synthetic biology, medical robotics, neuro-engineering, super-resolution microscopy and biophysics.
In the coming years, the field of Biomedical Engineering is expected to reshape the world of medicine and healthcare.
The substantial challenges that the global healthcare system and the pharmaceutical industry face drive the growth of the biomedical industry. The biomedical industry is based on Biology and Medicine combined with engineering fields or methods, such as electronics, intelligent machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), computational biology, physics, nanotechnology, materials science and advanced genetic engineering.
The combination of engineering principles with biological knowledge for the sake of attending to medical needs has contributed to the development of revolutionary and life-saving solutions such as artificial organs, surgical robots, advanced prosthetics, kidney dialysis, advanced genetic sequencing and more.
The Israeli biomedical industry boasts over 600 companies. Israel houses the R&D centers of the world’s leading biomedical equipment companies, e.g. Phillips, General Electric and Medtronic.
The products of research and development in the biomedical engineering field are diversified and include everything from medical equipment – such as imaging machines, medical measuring devices and surgical instruments, to drug delivery devices – such as inhalers and insulin pumps, and therapeutic and rehabilitative accessories – such as artificial joints and prosthetic organs.
The flourishing digital health industry in Israel has more than 500 companies, most of which are based on AI (Artificial Intelligence) technologies.
The increasing demand for biomedical engineers is linked to the incorporation of machines and technology in everyday life. Since the field of Biomedical Engineering is broad, the nature of the biomedical engineer’s work is diversified and differs in accordance with the job. Biomedical engineers bring together knowledge from the fields of Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Computer Science and Engineering in their effort to accelerate the development of cutting edge medical treatments.
The field of Biomedical Engineering includes the following specialization tracks, among others:
Imaging and Medical Signal Processing – Biomedical engineers specializing in signal processing will develop software and tools for automated, rapid and accurate decoding of medical images to improve the early diagnosis of various diseases by non-invasive means. Researchers in the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion are engaged in improving decoding of ECG, MRI, mammography, ultrasound, optical microscopy, embryo imaging and more.
Biomechanics, Neurophysiology – Designing and developing prosthetic organs to be as similar as possible in function to natural organs so that they will be user-friendly, and to retain most of the person’s natural capabilities. Currently, the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering is investigating the possibilities of rehabilitating the motor activity of patients after a stroke.
Tissue Engineering – Understanding the mechanisms of formation and development of various tissues in the body and developing means for growing tissues under laboratory conditions. For example, tissue engineers seek to cultivate tissue, for transplantation, which will be identical to the patient’s tissue and avoid the danger of graft rejection. Tissue engineering labs in the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering conduct pioneering research in this field.
Drug Delivery – Designing drug delivery mechanisms which target the affected area of the patient’s body, or customizing treatment to the patient’s genetic traits or characteristics in order to increase the drug’s effectiveness while reducing the required dose and side effects. At the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, researchers are developing drugs for lung disease and cardiovascular disease, as well as customized drugs for various cancers.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Medicine – Harnessing programming tools and Big Data Analysis to analyze genetic information and to characterize biological phenomena through computer and mathematical models. These tools provide insight into various vulnerabilities and diseases and support the development of ideal solutions for them. At the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, researchers and students use these tools to design genetic therapies and improve existing cancer treatments.
Biomaterials – Developing materials for medical use, such as biological adhesives, nanomaterials for marking areas of injury or drug transport, and even ‘smart bandages’. These medications help diagnose diseases and injuries and make treatment faster and more successful.
Nano-sensing Methods – Developing nanotechnologies for molecular sensing, genetic sequencing, biomolecule definition and advanced optical technologies for nano-imaging.
Undergraduate students in biomedical engineering at the Technion can already choose the field in which they wish to specialize during their undergraduate studies. Graduate students in the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering join research teams engaged in the most advanced engineering fields and study under the guidance of leading researchers in the Faculty.