Applications of Mechanical Engineering in Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering is an interdisciplinary area of study. I was fascinated by the enormous potential of mechanical engineering in medical device development while working on an Indo-US project to develop affordable blood pressure monitoring devices based on impedance measurements on the forearm. Mechanical engineering is applicable in the following areas of biomedical engineering:

Biomechanics

Biomechanics is the application of solid mechanics and engineering mechanics principles to develop therapeutic devices like exoskeletons. An interesting area of research has been to find the fracture toughness of human bones accurately. This would help the surgeons to come up with novel strategies for bone fracture fixation. Very often, biomechanics is regrouped under rehabilitation engineering. However, biomechanics research can be a more specialized area of research like injury biomechanics and sports biomechanics. Sports biomechanics is all about understanding the athletic movement to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

Mechanobiology

Mechanobiology deals with cell mechanics and biological processes at the microscopic level. Current research delves into exploring the factors responsible for DNA damage and finding alternative strategies to chemotherapy for targeted destruction of cancer cells. Application of microfluidics for effective drug delivery is a part of mechanobiology research. Mechanobiology is all about understanding the cellular response to mechanical forces.

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine deals with scaffolds and developing artificial organs like the artificial heart. Stem cell research is a key area of research in regenerative medicine and it is being carried out in almost all major universities of the world. The term “regenerative medicine” was first used in a 1992 article on hospital administration by Leland Kaiser. Kaiser’s paper closes with a series of short paragraphs on future technologies that will impact hospitals. One paragraph had “Regenerative Medicine” as a bold print title and stated, “A new branch of medicine will develop that attempts to change the course of chronic disease and in many instances will regenerate tired and failing organ systems.”

You may also find some areas of research with more distinctive names, like

  • Biomaterials
  • Medical Device Development
  • Rehabilitation Robotics

However, if you look closely, many of these areas have overlapping topics and theories and maybe the distinction between them blurs out at some point. For example, developing an artificial heart requires the knowledge of biomaterials. To characterize the mechanical properties of bone may be included in biomaterials or biomechanics because both involve experimental mechanics techniques to evaluate the results.

 

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