The world of biomedical engineering is fascinating. The field combines out-of-the-box engineering with serious healthcare needs in a way that promotes creativity and provides hope for thousands of patients every day. Biomedical engineers are working towards goals that can change and improve lives.
Perhaps because of the amazing opportunity to make a positive difference, the field of biomedical engineering is growing at an astronomical rate. Between 2014 and 2024, experts estimate nearly a 23% growth rate for this type of engineering. This opens the box for thousands of discoveries and new technologies that can aid the healthcare industry.
The number of people employed in biomedical engineering fields is not the only thing that is growing. Additionally, the number of new applications of biomedical engineering is also exploding. With all of these new advances in technology, it can be hard to keep up with the new opportunities that are coming online.
3D Printing is Changing the Game
Arguably one of the most significant and exciting advances in biomedical engineering technology comes with the development of 3D printing. The technology has multiple applications in the healthcare world from improving visualization in teaching to manufacturing replacement organs for those in need. All in all, it has the power to completely change the world of healthcare services.
One example of how 3D printing is changing the game is in how it is dropping prices for medical equipment that is typically extremely expensive. This is played out in real-time for amputees. Prosthetics and bionics are very costly; only about 15% of those in need can afford them. But 3D printing changes all of that by significantly dropping both production time and cost for form-fitting prosthetics. This makes them far more affordable and attainable for the average person.
Another exciting application of 3D printing on the horizon is 3D-printed organs. Organ transplants are difficult, expensive procedures. Though there are thousands of people in need of transplants, available organs that meet specifications are scarce and hundreds of people die every year on waitlists for the transplants they need to survive. 3D-printed organs are cheaper and can be produced at will. But even more important, they reduce the likelihood of organ transplant rejections significantly because the technology can use the patient’s own cells.
Cell and Tissue Engineering
Organ transplants using 3D printing are an advanced form of cell and tissue engineering. There are plenty of other things that can be engineered too though. For instance, cartilage tissue engineering can repair damaged joints. Much like prosthetics and organs, these have the potential to improve and even save lives.
Take another example like chronic venous insufficiency — a type of vein disease that afflicts nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. alone each year. The disease is a condition where a person’s veins fail to properly transport blood from the legs back to the heart leading to varicose veins and blood pooling. It may not sound like a big deal, but if left untreated, the disease can turn into something far more serious and potentially even life-threatening.
3D printing could help with this issue as well. Researchers have been able to produce 3D-printed blood vessels. Eventually, the technology could be used to address things like chronic venous insufficiency as well as other cardiovascular concerns such as aneurysms, blood clots, and artery diseases.
One of the most exciting advancements in biomedical engineering in recent years is the development of 3D printing. The technology offers literally thousands of ways to improve healthcare outcomes and change lives. Of course, this is just one exciting application coming online – what other biomedical engineering applications and advancements are you familiar with?