Monday, November 29, 2010

What is Biomechatronics?

Biomechatronics is an applied interdisciplinary science that aims to integrate mechanical elements, electronics and parts of biological organisms. Biomechatronics includes the aspects of biology, mechanics, and electronics. It also encompasses the fields of robotics and neuroscience. One example of Biomechatronics is a study done by Hugh Herr a professor at M.I.T.. Herr excised the muscles of frog legs, to attach to a mechanical fish and by pulsing electrical current through the muscle fibers, he caused the fish to swim. The goal of these experiments is to make devices that interact with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems.
The end result is that the devices will help with human motor control that was lost or impaired by trauma, disease or birth defects.
How It Works

Biomechatronics devices have to be based on how the human body works. For example, four different steps must occur to be able to lift the foot to walk. First, impulses from the motor center of the brain are sent to the foot and leg muscles. Next the nerve cells in the feet send information to the brain telling it to adjust the muscle groups or amount of force required to walk across the ground. Different amounts of force are applied depending on the type of surface being walked across. The leg's muscle spindle nerve cells then sense and send the position of the floor back up to the brain. Finally, when the foot is raised to step, signals are sent to muscles in the leg and foot to set it down.


Biosensors are used to detect what the user wants to do or their intentions and motions. In some devices the information can be relayed by the user's nervous system or muscle system. This information is related by the biosensor to a controller which can be located inside or outside the biomechatronic device. In addition biosensors receive information about the limb position and force from the limb and actuator. Biosensors come in a variety of forms. They can be wires which detect electrical activity, needle electrodes implanted in muscles, and electrode arrays with nerves growing through them.

Mechanical Sensors

The purpose of the mechanical sensors is to measure information about the biomechatronic device and relate that information to the biosensor or controller.


The controller in a biomechatronic device relays the user's intentions to the actuators. It also interprets feedback information to the user that comes from the biosensors and mechanical sensors. The other function of the controller is to control the biomechatronic device's movements.


The actuator is an artificial muscle. Its job is to produce force and movement. Depending on whether the device is orthotic or prosthetic the actuator can be a motor that assists or replaces the user's original muscle.

The demand for biomechatronic devices are at an all time high and show no signs of slowing down. Many biomechatronic researchers are closely collaborating with military organizations. The US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are giving funds to different labs to help soldiers and war veterans
read more "What is Biomechatronics?"

What is Biomedical engineering?

Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and techniques to the medical field. This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine: It combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to improve healthcare diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.

Biomedical engineering has only recently emerged as its own discipline, compared to many other engineering fields; such an evolution is common as a new field transitions from being an interdisciplinary specialization among already-established fields, to being considered a field in itself. Much of the work in biomedical engineering consists of research and development,

spanning a broad array of subfields (see below). Prominent biomedical engineering applications include the development of biocompatible prostheses, various diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices ranging from clinical equipment to micro-implants, common imaging equipment such as MRIs and EEGs, biotechnologies such as regenerative tissue growth, and pharmaceutical drugs and biopharmaceuticals.
read more "What is Biomedical engineering?"

History of Medicine

Prehistoric medicine incorporated plants (herbalism), animal parts and minerals. In many cases these materials were used ritually as magical substances by priests, shamans, or medicine men. Well-known spiritual systems include animism (the notion of inanimate objects having spirits), spiritualism (an appeal to gods or communion with ancestor spirits); shamanism (the vesting of an individual with mystic powers); and divination (magically obtaining the truth). The field of medical anthropology examines the ways in which culture and society are organized around or impacted by issues of health, health care and related issues.

Early records on medicine have been discovered from ancient Egyptian medicine, Babylonian medicine, Ayurvedic medicine (in the Indian subcontinent), classical Chinese medicine (predecessor to the modern traditional Chinese Medicine), and ancient Greek medicine and Roman medicine. The Egyptian Imhotep (3rd millennium BC) is the first physician in history known by name. Earliest records of dedicated hospitals come from Mihintale in Sri Lanka where evidence of dedicated medicinal treatment facilities for patients are found.The Indian surgeon Sushruta described numerous surgical operations, including the earliest forms of plastic surgery.

The Greek physician Hippocrates, considered the "father of medicine", laid the foundation for a rational approach to medicine. Hippocrates introduced the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, which is still relevant and in use today, and was the first to categorize illnesses as acute, chronic, endemic and epidemic, and use terms such as, "exacerbation, relapse, resolution, crisis, paroxysm, peak, and convalescence".

The Greek physician Galen was also one of the greatest surgeons of the ancient world and performed many audacious operations, including brain and eye surgeries. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the onset of the Dark Ages, the Greek tradition of medicine went into decline in Western Europe, although it continued uninterrupted in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

After 750 CE, the Muslim Arab world had the works of Hippocrates, Galen and Sushruta translated into Arabic, and Islamic physicians engaged in some significant medical research. Notable Islamic medical pioneers include the polymath, Avicenna, who, along with Imhotep and Hippocrates, has also been called the "father of medicine". He wrote The Canon of Medicine, considered one of the most famous books in the history of medicine. Others include Abulcasis, Avenzoar, Ibn al-Nafis, and Averroes. Rhazes was one of first to question the Greek theory of humorism, which nevertheless remained influential in both medieval Western and medieval Islamic medicine. The Islamic Bimaristan hospitals were an early example of public hospitals.

However, the fourteenth and fifteenth century Black Death was just as devastating to the Middle East as to Europe, and it has even been argued that Western Europe was generally more effective in recovering from the pandemic than the Middle East In the early modern period, important early figures in medicine and anatomy emerged in Europe, including Gabriele Falloppio and William Harvey.

The major shift in medical thinking was the gradual rejection, especially during the Black Death in the 14th and 15th centuries, of what may be called the 'traditional authority' approach to science and medicine. This was the notion that because some prominent person in the past said something must be so, then that was the way it was, and anything one observed to the contrary was an anomaly (which was paralleled by a similar shift in European society in general - see Copernicus's rejection of Ptolemy's theories on astronomy). Physicians like Ibn al-Nafis and Vesalius improved upon or disproved some of the theories from the past.

Modern scientific biomedical research (where results are testable and reproducible) began to replace early Western traditions based on herbalism, the Greek "four humours" and other such pre-modern notions. The modern era really began with Edward Jenner's discovery of the smallpox vaccine at the end of the 18th century (inspired by the method of inoculation earlier practiced in Asia), Robert Koch's discoveries around 1880 of the transmission of disease by bacteria, and then the discovery of antibiotics around 1900.

The post-18th century modernity period brought more groundbreaking researchers from Europe. From Germany and Austrian doctors (such as Rudolf Virchow, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Karl Landsteiner, and Otto Loewi) made contributions. In the United Kingdom Alexander Fleming, Joseph Lister, Francis Crick, and Florence Nightingale are considered important. From New Zealand and Australia came Maurice Wilkins, Howard Florey, and Frank Macfarlane Burnet).

In the United States William Williams Keen, Harvey Cushing, William Coley, James D. Watson, Italy (Salvador Luria), Switzerland (Alexandre Yersin), Japan (Kitasato Shibasaburō), and France (Jean-Martin Charcot, Claude Bernard, Paul Broca and others did significant work). Russian Nikolai Korotkov also did significant work, as did Sir William Osler and Harvey Cushing.

As science and technology developed, medicine became more reliant upon medications. Throughout history and in Europe right until the late 18th century not only animal and plant products were used as medicine, but also human body parts and fluids. Pharmacology developed from herbalism and many drugs are still derived from plants (atropine, ephedrine, warfarin, aspirin, digoxin, vinca alkaloids, taxol, hyoscine, etc.). Vaccines were discovered by Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur.

The first antibiotic was arsphenamine / Salvarsan discovered by Paul Ehrlich in 1908 after he observed that bacteria took up toxic dyes that human cells did not. The first major class of antibiotics was the sulfa drugs, derived by French chemists originally from azo dyes.

Pharmacology has become increasingly sophisticated; modern biotechnology allows drugs targeted towards specific physiological processes to be developed, sometimes designed for compatibility with the body to reduce side-effects. Genomics and knowledge of human genetics is having some influence on medicine, as the causative genes of most monogenic genetic disorders have now been identified, and the development of techniques in molecular biology and genetics are influencing medical technology, practice and decision-making.

Evidence-based medicine is a contemporary movement to establish the most effective algorithms of practice (ways of doing things) through the use of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. The movement is facilitated by modern global information science, which allows as much of the available evidence as possible to be collected and analyzed according to standard protocols which are then disseminated to healthcare providers. One problem with this 'best practice' approach is that it could be seen to stifle novel approaches to treatment[citation needed]. The Cochrane Collaboration leads this movement. A 2001 review of 160 Cochrane systematic reviews revealed that, according to two readers, 21.3% of the reviews concluded insufficient evidence, 20% concluded evidence of no effect, and 22.5% concluded positive effect.
read more "History of Medicine"

What is Medicine?

Medicine is the science and art (ars medicina) of healing humans. It includes a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness. Before scientific medicine, healing arts were practiced along with "Eastern medicine" — which are typically based in traditional, story-told, or otherwise non-scientific practices.

Contemporary medicine applies health science, biomedical research, and medical technology to diagnose and treat injury and disease, typically through medication, surgery, or some other form of therapy. The word medicine is derived from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing.

Though medical technology and clinical expertise are pivotal to contemporary medicine, successful face-to-face relief of actual suffering continues to require the application of ordinary human feeling and compassion, known in English as bedside manner.
read more "What is Medicine?"

What is health?

Health is the general condition of a person in all aspects. It is also a level of functional and/or metabolic efficiency of an organism, often implicitly human.
The Caduceus.

At the time of the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO), in 1948, health was defined as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".

Only a handful of publications have focused specifically on the definition of health and its evolution in the first 6 decades. Some of them highlight its lack of operational value and the problem created by use of the word "complete." Others declare the definition, which has not been modified since 1948, "simply a bad one."

In 1986, the WHO, in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, said that health is "a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities." Classification systems such as the WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC), which is composed of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) also define health.

Overall health is achieved through a combination of physical, mental, and social well-being, which, together is commonly referred to as the Health Triangle.
read more "What is health?"