The biomedical program has three areas of specialization (or tracks): cell and tissue engineering, medical imaging and neural engineering. These areas, while distinct in their concepts, are not entirely separate as a core exposure to the physical, chemical, biological and engineering sciences is common to all, and there is potential for considerable crossover among the areas at the upper division level. This is indicated by the course options common to all three tracks.
This area applies fundamental and applied engineering techniques to help solve basic and clinical problems in neuroscience. At a fundamental level, neural engineering seeks a better understanding of the behavior of individual neurons, their growth, signaling mechanisms between neurons, and how populations of neurons produce complex behavior. Obtaining such information improves understanding of the communication that occurs between the various parts of the nervous system and the brain. Such knowledge can lead to the development of replacement parts and other treatments for impaired neural systems.
Medical imaging encompasses a wide range of technologies (including MRI, CT, ultrasound, PET, etc.) that permit visualization of the internal structure and function of the human body. Medical imaging is an essential part of today's health care, biomedical research, and drug development, and is one of the most important contributions that engineering has made to patient care. Cutting-edge areas of medical imaging include development of new types of imaging, new hardware and computer software, and new ways of using, visualizing, and analyzing medical images (for more information visit the Medical Imaging Research Center).
This area seeks to understand and attack biomedical problems at the microscopic level and use such knowledge to engineer replacement tissues and organs from individual cells. Knowledge of anatomy, biochemistry and the mechanics of cellular and sub-cellular structures is needed to understand disease processes and to target interventions. Armed with such knowledge, new technologies have been, or are being, developed.
- Miniature devices for delivering compounds that stimulate or inhibit cellular processes in precise locations to promote healing or inhibit disease formation and progression.
- New techniques that have produced replacement skin and may one day produce heart valves, coronary vessels, and even entire hearts.
- Development of artificial materials used for implantation as well as new biomaterials that incorporate proteins or living cells, thereby providing a truer biological and mechanical match for the living tissue.