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The Future Of Biomedical Engineering Essay

1634 words - 7 pages

While still a young and relatively new field, biomedical engineering has been reported as the fastest growing career in America. With a projected growth of seventy-two percent by the year 2018, the potential for new opportunities and projects is immense (“Fastest Growing Jobs”). While past innovation has solely included use of artificial devices, the field is now exploring the use of regenerative medicine and stem cells, cells that can be used for the growth of tissues or organs. The use of stem cells may lead to several future advancements including the regeneration of back discs, laboratory grown kidneys, and the cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. The creation of a new biomaterial that ...view middle of the document...

Stem cells are useful to the field of biomedical engineering because of their ability to divide and specialize in a multitude of cell types. Under the direction of a biomedical engineer, stem cells could be used for the growth of an organ or tissue. Stem cells could also be added to damaged tissue to replenish the area (“Stem Cell Basics”). The regrowth or reparation of organs and tissues open up a wide field of possibilities that biomedical engineers can explore, such as the potential to help those suffering from degenerative disc disease.
Known as one of the most common causes of neck and back pain, degenerative disc disease is a condition where currently the pain can only be managed, but not yet cured. Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs of the spinal cord, which are normally soft and easily compressed in order to absorb shock, break down over time. Because of this, the discs can no longer absorb shock which results in a great deal of pain for the afflicted person (“Degenerative Disc”). However, biomedical engineers are working to reverse the pain by injecting stem cells into the area of the spine where the discs are damaged. The difficulties with accomplishing this advancement are properly injecting the stem cells and keeping them contained in the area between the discs. To combat this, biomedical engineers are designing a biomaterial that starts out as a liquid and is injected alongside the stem cells. Once inside the body, the biomaterial turns into a gel-like substance that keeps the stem cells enclosed in the disc space (Howell). The use of innovative biomaterials introduces the possibility of future cell therapy for those living in discomfort from neck and back pain. Upon injection, the stem cells have the ability to stop further decay of the discs, and possibly even restore them over time (Howell). With further research and experimentation, a stem cell treatment could be produced to assist those suffering from degenerative disc disease.
Another innovation that can be achieved through the use of stem cells is the creation of laboratory grown organs, such as the kidney. In America alone, there is an enormous need for kidneys with about 100,000 patients waiting for kidney transplants and thousands dying per year while waiting to receive a transplant (Gallagher). Biomedical engineers are working to produce a functioning kidney that can be used by those in need of a kidney transplant. A potential problem engineers must combat is the possible rejection of a kidney grown solely from stem cells. To avoid this, a new technique called decellularization is being used. Decellularization involves taking an existing kidney and removing the cells from the inside. A skeleton of the kidney remains that only needs to be filled with stem cells taken from the patient (Leung and Cowen). This process could create a suitable kidney used in organ transplants that would not need a constant supply of medicine to keep the patient’s body from...

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