Biomedicine has been going ahead in leaps and bounds over recent years. Whether you’re interested in getting into the field yourself as a career, or just want to keep up to date on how biomedical products can help enhance your life, there is much to consider. Read on for some exciting new developments you need to know about today.
Targeted Drug Delivery
If you’re considering studying biomedical engineering online so you can help save lives and be part of medical breakthroughs in the future, look into developments in the area of targeted drug delivery. One exciting example comes from a research team at the University of Texas, who are working in collaboration with members of the University of Reims on a “golden nanopill.”
Examining complex plasmonic nanovesicles (minute capsules), researchers are developing ideas about how to design and activate these optimally. When taken as a pill, the tiny capsules can travel through the bloodstream, and make their way to a specific location in the body. Once there, they can be used for targeted drug delivery.
When in position, medical practitioners can hit the pills with a short pulse of laser light. This then can get the nanoparticles to change shape and release their contents on demand. The opportunities here are important and wide-ranging, particularly in the area of cancer treatments and studies of the brain, where specific, small parts of the body need to be dealt with. The drug-delivery method utilizes supercomputers, and as tech advances and more is learned about the technique, it’s likely it will develop further and further.
With more people than ever in the U.S. and globally being obese or overweight, plus increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with diabetes, another important biomedical breakthrough is in the area of weight loss. The Obalon Balloon System is the world’s first, FDA-approved, swallowable, intragastric balloon system. It helps patients lose weight by taking up space in their stomachs, and helping them to reduce food consumption, and change dietary habits as a result. This means long-term weight loss and weight maintenance is more likely.
While balloons are temporary, and have to be removed after six months, their usage makes it easier for people to get used to eating less. It’s particularly targeted to obese adults who haven’t been able to lose weight through exercise and diet previously. The Obalon system revolves around a capsule that patients swallow. This capsule contains a small balloon which is inflated by a physician once digested. No sedation or anesthesia is required, and the procedure can be finished within just 10 minutes.
Due to growing and aging populations, a rise in chronic health issues, and other causes, these days there are more people than ever who need transplants or surgeries performed on body parts. Biomedicine is having an impact in this field, too, especially when it comes to 3D-printed organs.
Now, surgeons can print models of organs to practice on before they cut open patients. These newer designs feel and look more like living tissue, which makes it easier for doctors to get feedback on how much pressure to apply as they operate. They can also better predict how people’s actual organs will react to surgeries and handle recovery. In the future, the hope is that bionic organs will be able to be 3D printed too. This will mean patients don’t have to wait for transplants, because parts could be printed on demand.
Gas-Sniffing Smart Pills
Over recent years, there has been much focus in the area of gut health. Both medical professionals and consumers have been talking about the importance of monitoring and improving this health zone, and how deficiencies can lead to, and be signs of, issues in other parts of the body.
Currently, researchers in Australia, based at RMIT University, Monash University, and CSIRO Agriculture and Food, are developing swallowable, gas-sniffing capsules – smart pills – which can be used to detect the health of the gut and the microbes within it. Phase-two clinical trials of the capsules are in the planning stages, after having past the first round of human trials. The pills show great promise when it comes to diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and tracking treatments.
Biomedicine is set to revolutionize the neuroprosthetics market too. In fact, according to research, the global market for neuroprosthetics is expected to exceed over US$10.48 billion by 2023. Neuroprosthetics are used when links between neurons in the brain and body parts are damaged due to injury or stroke. People can learn to control prosthetic devices by tapping into the electrical activity of their brain.
New research is discovering increasingly more sophisticated and successful ways for neuroprosthetics to supplant or supplement the inputs or outputs of the nervous system, by harnessing the brain’s plasticity to rewire connections. For example, work is being done on a bionic hand that enables patients to sense their prosthetic fingers, and on cochlear implants which translate sounds into electrical stimulation for the brain to learn to interpret as sound.