Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

August 2013    |    Volume: 45    |    Number: 8

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

A dance with bioengineering

My aching feet could use some bioengineering.

For the last couple of years, plantar fasciitis has hindered my practice of lindy hop, blues and tango to the point where I likely have forgotten all I have learned. Numerous medical interventions have improved, but not totally alleviated, the situation. The uncertain outcome of surgery, which could worsen the situation, has me too fearful to go under the knife.

Well, as it turns out, doctors, medical researchers and industrial engineering actually intersect in the development of regenerative medicine, as detailed on Page 32 by Rohan A. Shirwaiker, Zhuo (George) Tan and Paul H. Cohen. RM ranges from generating functional organs to replace the failing originals to manufacturing artificial skin for burn victims, cartilage for knee-replacement procedures, bladder replacement, and cell therapies to halt urinary incontinence and repair spinal cord injuries.

"Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing" discusses how process modeling, system design and automation, quality control, and supply chain logistics can solve regenerative medicine problems that arise from variability, mass customization and regulatory compliance and supply chain issues. Solving those issues, which led to the technology transformation of the late 20th century, could transform healthcare.

And autologous RM, which develops therapies with the patient’s own cells, helps counter the problem of patient rejection of transplanted fixes. Such technologies also help tailor solutions to individual physiology, something not always done in medicine today. As an example, take the flat-soled walking boots prescribed to fix my condition, even though the arches of my feet are nearly as high as the Himalayas.

As with any field an IE delves into, Shirwaiker, Tan and Cohen note that tomorrow’s IEs must learn about biomedical technology during their educational process.

So take a look at incorporating such things into the curricula of the future. The feet you save could be mine.

See you on the dance floor. Maybe.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at mhughes@iienet.org or (770) 349-1110.