Every February, we celebrate National Engineers Week. Explore some examples of innovative solutions to global health challenges created by NIBIB-funded biomedical engineers.
Wearable devices hold promise for non-invasive, continuous monitoring of vital signs and other medical data. Information collected from wearable devices could potentially help diagnose diseases earlier or guide treatment decisions. It’s important, however, to ensure that wearable devices work equally for all patient populations.
An NIBIB-funded team has developed a wearable cardiac ultrasound imager that can non-invasively capture real-time images of the heart. The prototype patch, about the size of a postage stamp, can be worn during exercise, providing valuable cardiac information when the heart is under stress.
NIBIB-funded researchers are fine-tuning a wearable, cuffless blood pressure monitor. Made of graphene, one of the thinnest materials in the world, the device is worn on the underside of the wrist and can measure blood pressure with comparable accuracy to a standard blood pressure cuff.
A single-center study found that minority patient groups received less supplemental oxygen in the intensive care unit (ICU) due to inaccurate readings from pulse oximeters. Treatment decisions based on inaccurate readings from these devices may perpetuate racial disparities in care.
Imaging techniques can help researchers and clinicians to see things inside cells, organs, or entire bodies. Information gathered from imaging techniques can spur biological discoveries, diagnose medical conditions, and even aid surgical decisions.
Using state-of-the-art imaging technology, NIH-funded researchers have found the secret behind the glassfrog’s ability to become transparent, an effective form of camouflage. Future research may provide insights into disorders related to blood clotting or stroke in humans.
A research team developed a microscope that combines rapid high- and low-power light-sheet microscopy with an open top design that allows for rapid imaging of a wide range of sample types.
Researchers are developing an imaging method that would allow surgeons to better identify cancerous cells in breast tumor margins during surgery, which could potentially reduce follow-up surgeries and cancer recurrence.
Research models are an important part of biomedical research. Before interventions can be evaluated in humans, they are often tested in preclinical models. Sometimes animals are used as research models, but many scientific studies use other types of models to gather new information.
NIBIB-funded researchers have developed an interlinked tissue chip system that can model four mature organs in their perspective environments simultaneously. These multi-organ tissue chips could represent a new way to evaluate diseases or drugs that affect multiple different tissues.
Artemis I, the uncrewed moon-orbiting mission that launched in late 2022, carried two mannequins that model female anatomy. The mannequins will be used to measure the accumulated cosmic radiation that astronauts would absorb during a trip around the moon.
NIBIB-funded researchers are developing an implantable, biodegradable film that helps regenerate damaged cartilage. Their study, performed in rabbits, could be an initial step in the establishment of a new treatment.
Medical Interventions & Treatments
Advances in bioengineering have led to the development of new tools and treatment approaches. New biomaterials and drug delivery methods could enhance or replace existing treatments, and breakthroughs in robotics could augment surgical procedures.
NIBIB-funded researchers are developing a robotic pill that, after swallowing, can deliver biologic drugs into the stomach, which could provide an alternative method for self-injection for a wide range of therapies.
NIBIB-funded researchers combined an injectable radioactive gel with systemic chemotherapy in multiple mouse models of pancreatic cancer. The treatment resulted in tumor regression in all evaluated models, an unprecedented result for this genetically diverse and aggressive disease.
NIBIB-funded researchers are developing an autonomous robot that can perform bowel surgery with minimal assistance from a surgeon. In this study, the robot outperformed expert surgeons when compared head-to-head in preclinical models.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, broadly describes a machine’s ability to learn. AI-based methods can identify patterns that are either laborious or impossible for human users to spot. While AI has enormous potential, it is important to understand its limitations and to ensure that AI-based methods are equitable for all.
Learn more about the different types of AI and how AI is being used to improve medical care and biomedical research in this NIBIB resource.
NIBIB researchers and their collaborators have identified several novel image restoration strategies that create sharp images with significantly reduced processing time and computing power.
Researchers have found that AI models could accurately predict self-reported race in several types of medical images, suggesting that race information could be unknowingly incorporated into image analysis models.
Diagnosing disease is the first step to guiding treatment decisions. However, some diagnostic tests are expensive, take days for results, and can only be performed by a trained medical professional. Developing diagnostic tests that are inexpensive and easy to perform could help mitigate disease spread and expedite treatment.
NIBIB Director Bruce Tromberg discusses the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative and the development of testing technologies that detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Bacterial infections are the leading cause of disease and death worldwide, an ongoing public health problem that is exacerbated by slow or inaccurate diagnostics. Now NIBIB-funded scientists have engineered an inexpensive, paper-based test that can rapidly identify multiple types of bacteria.
NIBIB-funded researchers have developed a single point-of-care assay that identifies malaria, typhoid—or both simultaneously—in just 15 minutes.
Training the Next Generation of Bioengineers
These NIBIB resources focus on challenges, training opportunities, and career development programs for bioengineers, from undergraduates to established scientists.
The Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge seeks undergraduate student teams to develop technology solutions to unmet needs in any area of health care.
NIBIB is committed to enhancing workforce diversity in the biomedical engineering workforce and maintaining a strong cohort of new and talented, NIH-supported, independent investigators from diverse backgrounds.
NIBIB funds research training across the range of career levels. This resource links to NIBIB's training and career development programs and announcements about related initiatives.