Superhero Tech For Real Life

A Glimpse Of Biomedical Engineering In Shaping A Brighter Future For Healthcare

by Assoc. Prof. Ir. Ts. Dr Asnida Abdul Wahab 
& Dr. Zuhaili Idham

In today’s fast-paced world, advancements in healthcare are constantly evolving. Behind these advancements lies a lesser-known hero: biomedical engineering. But what exactly is biomedical engineering, and how does it shape the future of healthcare? To address the complex problems found in healthcare and medicine, a wide range of disciplines, including electronics and electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, biotechnology, computer science, and health sciences, come together at the core of biomedical engineering.

Now, imagine a world where doctors have instruments that can detect diseases before they cause symptoms. Consider prosthetic limbs that feel and function just like real ones, offering people with disabilities newfound freedom of movement. Visualize small gadgets inside our bodies monitoring our health and sending notifications when something goes wrong. Next, using cutting-edge technology and devices, medical diagnoses and treatments can be conducted remotely, swiftly and conveniently. With such advancements, the necessity for frequent physical hospital visits and weekly appointments has become a thing of the past. This is the realm of biomedical engineering.

Biomedical engineering uses science, technology, and engineering principles to solve medical and healthcare challenges. Biomedical engineers work tirelessly to develop new medical devices, equipment, and technologies that improve diagnosis, treatment, and overall patient care. For example, in the field of medical imaging, biomedical engineers have developed sophisticated machines like MRI and CT scanners that allow medical doctors to see inside the body with incredible detail. These imaging technologies help diagnose diseases, plan surgeries, and monitor treatment progress, all without complex and complicated invasive procedures.

At Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), we bring together experts in various engineering disciplines, medicine, health sciences and even computer science to collaborate in biomedical engineering research and projects related to medical imaging, prosthetics and orthotics, biomaterials, tissue engineering, biomedical signal processing, assistive devices, rehabilitation, medical robotic and many more. Researchers from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences (BMEHS), Research Groups such as Diagnostics, Bioinspira as well as Research Centers including Medical Devices and Technology Center (MEDITEC) and IJN-Cardiovascular Engineering Center have been instrumental in driving forward research and projects that have the potential to revolutionise healthcare. The ongoing collaborative efforts in UTM and with local and global partners have resulted in discoveries that will reshape the healthcare landscape in Malaysia.

One exemplary endeavour led by UTM academics focuses on developing low-cost prosthetic and orthotic devices for those in need. These researchers are designing prosthetic limbs and orthotic supports that combine 3D printing technology, modern materials, and novel design strategies to provide better functionality and comfort at a low cost. Making these important technologies more accessible restores persons’ mobility and dignity, allowing them to live productive lives.

Another area of research excellence at UTM lies in personalized medication, treatment and overall patient management. Through artificial intelligence, researchers are pioneering personalized treatment approaches tailored to individual genetic profiles and health needs. This precision medicine paradigm not only optimizes therapeutic outcomes but also minimizes adverse effects, revolutionizing the way healthcare is delivered and improving patient outcomes.

Our researchers are also at the forefront of developing biodegradable materials for implants, addressing concerns about long-term biocompatibility and environmental sustainability. By harnessing the power of biomaterials science, they are creating implantable devices that seamlessly integrate with the body, promoting tissue regeneration and minimizing the risk of rejection. This innovation holds promise for a wide range of medical applications, from orthopaedic implants to drug delivery systems, offering safer and more eco-friendly solutions for patients and healthcare providers.

Apart from that, robotics plays a pivotal role in healthcare management, offering innovative solutions for patient monitoring, rehabilitation, and assistance. UTM researchers are exploring the use of robotic exoskeletons and assistive devices to enhance mobility and independence for individuals with physical disabilities. These wearable devices not only provide support and assistance but also facilitate rehabilitation and therapy, enabling patients to regain strength and functionality more effectively.

Additionally, many researchers are also exploring the use of assistive devices that are emerging as invaluable tools to provide alternative home-based treatment solutions for children with special learning needs such as autism. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms are integrated to create immersive and engaging environments for children. These technologies offer interactive experiences that stimulate sensory integration, promote social skills development, and facilitate communication in a safe and controlled setting. At the forefront of this innovative approach is a concerted effort by researchers, occupational therapists and clinicians to harness technology to empower families and improve the quality of life for their children.

UTM offers a wide range of courses in biomedical engineering and health sciences. This includes undergraduate programs namely Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering, and various postgraduate programs such as Master’s degrees in both taught course and research modes, and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biomedical Engineering as well as in the field of Health Sciences. There is also a specialized program, such as a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Technology. These programs prepare graduates with the important basics and advanced concepts of biomedical engineering and health sciences. These academic programs provide students with a thorough grasp of the foundational principles and advanced methodologies of biomedical engineering, fostering the cultivation of expertise and scholars in specialized areas of interest within both biomedical engineering and healthcare. Upon graduation, graduates are well-prepared to embark on different career paths which include working as a biomedical engineer and creating new medical devices or treatments. Graduates could also become health policymakers, helping to decide how healthcare is delivered. Other options include being a healthcare consultant, advising hospitals or clinics, or even becoming lecturers or researchers themselves. A degree from UTM can help graduates improve current healthcare delivery and treatment, patient care, and the enhancement of community health outcomes.

As we look further, biomedical engineering’s impact on healthcare will only continue to grow and expand. With rapid technological advancement and an increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, alongside the integration of artificial intelligence, we anticipate the emergence of more innovative solutions to various medical challenges. Continual investment and improvement in the field of biomedical engineering are not only crucial but imperative to ensure ongoing advancements and breakthroughs in healthcare. By allocating resources and fostering collaboration across disciplines, we can unlock new possibilities, accelerate innovation, and ultimately, enhance the quality of life for individuals worldwide.

In conclusion, biomedical engineering is the driving force behind many of the remarkable advancements in healthcare today. By combining scientific knowledge with engineering ingenuity, our healthcare landscape is paving the way for a more promising future and as we navigate the complexities of modern healthcare, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting and advancing biomedical engineering, for it holds the key to a healthier and sustainable healthcare ecosystem, not just for the benefit of ourselves but for generations to come.

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