National Engineers Week - February 20-26, 2022

Image of a woman's hands with transparent white images of drug capsules, the human body, and DNA floating around her

It's National Engineers Week. Explore innovative solutions to global health challenges created by NIBIB-funded biomedical engineers. 

    Testing Technologies

    Testing technologies are an important part of early diagnosis. Engineers are working to make tests faster, less invasive, and more accurate.

    Placenta accreta spectrum (PAS) disorder is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the placenta remains attached to the uterus after childbirth. Now researchers have developed a blood test to identify this condition, enabling early intervention by high-risk pregnancy specialists.

    NIBIB-funded research drives progress in the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of middle ear infections.

    The RADx® Tech/ATP programs are components of the overarching RADx Initiative at NIH to speed innovation in the development, commercialization, and implementation of technologies for COVID-19 testing.

    Healing and Regeneration

    Regenerative medicine encompasses a broad range of therapeutic methods to help the body heal. It includes tissue engineering but also incorporates research on self-healing – where the body uses its own systems, sometimes with help foreign biological material to recreate cells and rebuild tissues and organs.

    The technique used in this preclinical study could aid tissue regeneration following severe accidents, surgical resections, or progressive muscle loss due to age or genetic disease.

    Bioengineers have developed biocompatible self-assembling “piezoelectric wafers,” which can be made rapidly and inexpensively to enable broad use of implantable muscle-powered electromechanical therapies.

    Nanofiber-based treatments stimulate the body to mount its own biological attack on immune disorders.

    AI & Computational Modeling

    Engineers are using artificial intelligence and computational modeling to improve diagnosis and treatment of disease. AI uses machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning to help doctors improve radiological diagnoses and telehealth treatment. Computational modeling is the use of computers to simulate and study complex systems using mathematics, physics, and computer science—allowing scientists to conduct thousands of simulated experiments by computer.

    NIBIB-funded engineers are using deep learning to differentiate tumor more accurately from normal tissue in positron emission tomography (PET) images.

    NIBIB-funded researchers are working on an ankle prosthetic that relies on the user’s residual muscles—and the electrical signals that they generate—to help amputees control their posture continuously.

    A change of instructions in a computer program directs the computer to execute a different command. Similarly, synthetic biologists are learning the rules for how to direct the activities of human cells.

    Optical Imaging

    Optical imaging uses light and special properties of photons to obtain detailed images of organs, tissues, cells and even molecules. The techniques offer minimally or non-invasive methods for looking inside the body. Because it is much safer than techniques that require ionizing radiation, like x-rays, optical imaging can be used for repeated procedures to monitor the progression of disease or the results of treatment.

    A team led by NIBIB scientists has developed hardware and software innovations to construct super-resolution, 3D confocal images of fine structures in living samples.

    NIBIB-funded researchers are developing a fluorescent dot that is not only easier to make, but uses environmentally friendly materials.

    A team of NIH microscopists and computer scientists used a type of artificial intelligence called a neural network to obtain clearer pictures of cells at work even with extremely low, cell-friendly light levels.

    Medical Interventions

    Bioengineers continue to develop innovative technologies to improve medical interventions. Medical interventions can lead to prevention and early detection of disease.

    In a major step towards continuous non-invasive health monitoring, engineers have developed a flexible epidermal patch that can simultaneously and continuously monitor cardiac output and metabolic levels of glucose, lactate, caffeine, or alcohol.

    Simplified flowchart of the experimental design. The smartwatch measured four vital signs over an extended period. These measurements were then converted into different features (e.g., overnight variability in skin temperature or heart rate during exercise).

    Smartwatch data used to predict clinical test results

    NIH-funded researchers are investigating how to use smartwatches to predict clinical test results, which could potentially serve as an early warning signal for underlying health issues.

    NIBIB-funded researchers have found a way to model the human neuromuscular junction by growing these synapses in a lab which could accelerate novel treatments for neuromuscular diseases.


    Diagnostic ultrasound is a non-invasive diagnostic technique used to image inside the body. Ultrasound probes, called transducers, produce sound waves that have frequencies above the threshold of human hearing. Most diagnostic ultrasound probes are placed on the skin. Therapeutic ultrasound also uses sound waves above the range of human hearing but does not produce images. Its purpose is to interact with tissues in the body such that they are either modified or destroyed.

    Abnormal heart rhythms—cardiac arrhythmias—are a major worldwide health problem. Now scientists are using ultrasound for more accurate maps of arrhythmic sites in the heart for improved success of ablation procedures.

    NIBIB-funded researchers are investigating long-lasting, customizable nanobubbles for ultrasound contrast agents.

    NIH-funded researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated the potential of a neuromodulation approach that uses low-intensity ultrasound energy, called transcranial focused ultrasound—or tFUS.

    More Engineering Highlights at NIBIB

    Learn about the career journeys and impactful scientific contributions of NIBIB’s outstanding female grantees.

    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's science topics provide in-depth looks at the latest science in medical technology, as well as overviews of the different divisions of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.