Dent in the armor of the Big Bang theory

annihilation-interaction

So we don’t miss the mark, the fact that…

Annihilation of matter (such as electrons) and anti-matter (such as positrons) occurs with such a high degree of reliability, the consistency invokes a sense of precision inherent with the most accurate time piece. Moreover, such consistency ratchets up the applicability factor associated with PET scans. However, this same reliability as well as applicability (and the very same exacting precision) serves as the Achilles’ heel of the Big Bang theory because matter/anti-matter annihilation interactions raise questions concerning the origin of matter in the universe.

Where does ordinary matter come from?

According to the Big Bang theory, matter and anti-matter arose at the same time. Nevertheless, neither a surplus in matter nor a deficit of it are detected from anti-matter and matter collisions performed experimentally (that is, from experiments thought to mimic conditions associated with the Big Bang). And this fact leaves us with an important question: where did all of our plain, ordinary matter existing abundantly around us come from? You can help answer this question by taking part in our creation science writing contest, by choosing the question that deals with PET scans in medicine.

pet-schemaThe technique of PET imaging

And who knows, maybe a career path too

Nuclear Medicine Technologists are the professionals responsible for implementing PET scans for the physicians who order these tests. So, who knows, from the knowledge gained through contest participation, you could be taking the first steps toward an exciting, patient-focused career. We look forward to reading your entry!

An extraordinary imbalance between ordinary matter and anti-matter

annihilation-interactionSchematic of pair production and annihilation interaction

We are recommending the short online article, “Baryon Conservation and the Antimatter Mystery,” by physicist Vernon R. Cupps. This article appears in the November 2018 issue of the science- and creation- magazine Acts & Facts, and, in our opinion, proves extremely insightful for students interested in our creation science writing contest, specifically those students who pick positron emission tomography for their essay topic. Here Dr. Cupps not only discusses the extraordinary science and deeper theological issues surrounding the disparity between ordinary matter and anti-matter, but he also approaches the topic in a way that translates exceptionally well for students concerned with the issue-at-hand for their essay option (that is, explaining pair production and annihilation in PET scanning in medicine for their entries).

pet-schemaThe technique of PET imaging

Biomimicry 101: Cardiovascular Medicine: Part 1: Thinking Outside the – Stem Cell – Box

anat-stent-ekg-monarch-caterpillarFigure 1: Anatomy of the heart, with blood flow schematic (top left panel); profile of a coronary artery stent application (top right panel); the electrocardiogram – abbreviated ECG or EKG – representing the heart’s conduction system (center panel); and the monarch caterpillar (bottom panel).

When you ponder biomimicry, think design, intelligent design, and creation, but please don’t think evolution. And when considering biomimetic applications, let your imagination know no bounds.

The previous article in our biomimicry series introduced several key issues describing the feasibility and use of engineered tissue in different health and medical fields. Presently, this article (in two installments) will focus on various examples concerning bioengineering and biomimicry in the field of cardiovascular medicine. For example, we address the ethics and challenges concerning the regeneration of cardiac tissue via stem cell therapy. At the same time, however, we draw the spotlight away from a stem cell model to survey other novel clinical cardiology and endovascular biomimetic research. What is more, a first principle that continues to serve as motivation for exploring biomimetic applications that deal with cardiac tissue is our viewpoint that the heart is uniquely and deliberately designed, as emphasized with respect to tissue scaffolds in our prior article, as follows:

Because of the unique makeup of cardiac tissue, the work surrounding cardiac tissue scaffolds has focused on mimicking the physiological properties of the heart itself. This fact is true whether we are talking about designing artificial heart valves that mimic the mechanical properties of native heart valve tissue (Capulli et al., 2017), or boldly seeking to engineer myocardial tissues that elicit the unique mechanical, biological, and electrical properties existing at cell-tissue interfaces throughout the heart (Kaiser & Coulombe, 2015). (“Three examples of biomimicry applied to tissue engineering,” para. 3)

Once again, the aim of this series, and in particular this subject matter, is to bring glory to God and His creation, which includes human beings as a special creation. We begin our discussion with an overview on heart anatomy and physiology.

Anatomy and physiology of the heart

Tissues that make up the heart integrate a distinct blend of mechanical, biological, and electrical properties. To best examine these properties, we first review this unique organ.

— Location, Location, Location —

The heart is centered within the chest cavity, just left of midline between our two lungs. In fact, our bodies accommodate its exact location because our left lung is comprised of only two lobes, whereas our right lung has three. This means our hearts are nuzzled into the space made available by the “missing” part of our left lung. What is more, an intimate vascular network exists between our heart and lungs, and when taken together these organs and their connections comprise our cardiopulmonary system (i.e., the heart-lung system).

— Circulation —

Our circulatory system, which includes the associated vasculature of the heart, is a closed-loop system that is responsible for moving blood through our bodies. With the heart serving as the system’s pump, there are three types of blood vessels: the arteries, the capillaries, and the veins.

  • Arteries are specialized blood vessels composed of three individualized layers: the innermost layer, the tunica intima; the middle layer, the tunica media; and the outermost layer, the tunica adventitia. Within the tunica media are smooth muscles that control the diameters of arteries via influence of the autonomic nervous system. Arteries function as conduits that, in all but one circumstance, carry oxygenated blood away from the heart. In addition, healthy arteries are well-known for their resilient, elastic nature. A very large artery known as the aorta is the first artery in the circulatory system.
  • Capillaries facilitate the exchange of oxygen, nutrients, and waste by-products resulting from cellular respiration and metabolism.
  • Veins are characterized by their one-way valves that help direct blood flow toward the heart (and thus prevent the back-flow of blood).

— The Big Squeeze —

The heart’s squeezing action is what circulates blood throughout our vasculature. What is more, a heart cycle is easily detected via the heart’s squeezing sounds, the so-called lub-dub sound of the heart. The lub sound represents simultaneous contraction of the two top chambers (i.e., the atria), and the dub sound represents simultaneous contraction of the two bottom chambers (i.e., the ventricles). Blood has four main components: oxygen-carrying cells called red blood cells; functional immunity cells called white blood cells; cell fragments that are important for clotting called platelets; and a liquid constituent called plasma. What follows is the path our blood takes within the cardiopulmonary system:

  • After a red blood cell releases its oxygen content to our muscles and organs, it is called deoxygenated. Deoxygenated red blood cells, together with the aforementioned constituents, make their way back to the heart through our systemic venous system (i.e., our veins). As this pathway draws closer to the heart, it converges to form two large venous trunks known as vena cava. The superior vena cava brings back blood from the upper part of the body, and the inferior vena cava brings back blood from the lower part of the body. This returning systemic flow of blood then enters the first of our heart’s four chambers – the right atrium.
  • Once inside the right atrium, blood passes through the tricuspid valve into the second chamber of the heart – the right ventricle. This occurs in synchrony with the first of the two squeezing sounds, the so-called lub sound associated with atrial contraction.
  • As a result of ventricular contraction (i.e., the dub sound), the blood then passes from the right ventricle through the pulmonary semi-lunar valve and flows toward our lungs via both pulmonary arterial trunks, the right and the left pulmonary arteries. The pulmonary arteries carry the blood to the lungs where red blood cells are oxygenated within the lung’s capillary beds. The oxygenated blood will now flow back towards the heart by way of the pulmonary veins, a process returning this pulmonary flow of blood to the heart’s third chamber – the left atrium.
  • Once in the left atrium, the blood passes through the mitral valve into the fourth and final chamber of the heart – the left ventricle. Again, this occurs in synchrony with atrial contraction.
  • Finally, with contraction of the left ventricle, the oxygenated blood enters systemic circulation as it passes through the aortic semi-lunar valve (i.e., flowing out of the left ventricle and into the aorta).

TECHNICAL INSERT: Arteries and veins are recognized by the directional flow of blood that they facilitate away from – or toward – the heart, respectively, and not by whether or not the blood within the artery or vein is oxygenated or deoxygenated.

What is more, each squeezing action initiating a new cardiac cycle will simultaneously generate a pressure spike within our vessels, causing the blood to effectually pulsate through the circulatory system. Notably, this spike or wave of pressure is called systole, whereas the underlying pressure is referred to as diastole. Both systole and diastole make up our body’s systemic blood pressure. Normal systemic systolic pressure is 120 mmHg, and normal systemic diastolic pressure is 80 mmHg.

The term that describes the volume of blood pumped through the body is cardiac output, and this volume is seen as a marker of efficiency of cardiac mechanics and hemodynamics. To adequately deliver oxygen to our body’s tissues (called perfusion), cardiac output is approximately five liters per minute. In fact, investigations looking into cardiac output during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) led to guidelines from the American Heart Association to favor compression-only CPR to better achieve adequate blood flow and perfusion (Wininger, 2007). Investigators discovered that two different theories describing CPR-related chest compression – the cardiac pump theory and the thoracic pump theory – actually work together and in tandem depending on the physiological situation. One study helping investigators reach this level of insight was a review of the use of CPR for emergent care during coronary angiography. Today, there are even mechanical chest compression devices that heart catheterization labs can use, if necessary, during interventional care (Wagner et al, 2010).

Perspectives such as this illuminate how far we have come. Currently, a prototype of a ventricular assist device that mimics the natural squeezing/compression action of the heart has proven feasible. The device is a soft robotic sleeve that wraps around the heart, and it is being devised for those patients with severe heart failure (Roche et al, 2017). A major benefit of this particular device is that it never contacts blood, unlike traditional assistive devices, and thus eliminates the need for patients to be on blood thinners for prolonged periods of time.

— The Conduction of Electricity: The Conduction Pathway —

Cardiac squeezing action is controlled by the heart’s electrical activity. In fact, the conduction pathway that exists for this electrical activity is what we observe when looking at electrocardiogram tracings (abbreviated ECG, or colloquially known as EKG rhythm strips). ECG tracings show three main waves: the P-wave, the QRS-complex, and the T-wave. Crucially, analysis of these waves provides cardiologists with critical diagnostic information. The conduction pathway begins in the right atrium with a group of “like-minded” heart cells known as the sinoatrial node (abbreviated SA node and also called the heart’s “pacemaker cells”). Once the SA node fires, electrical charge disperses across the atrium and arrives at the aterioventricular (AV) node. At the AV node, the electrical charge then travels down through the intraventricular septum (a tissue that separates the chambers associated with the left and right ventricles), traveling down and along the bundle of His.

Continuing on – the charge follows the pathway that is made available by the bundle of His, a fibrous tissue pathway that splits within the septum and forms a right bundle branch and a left bundle branch. Here the electrical charge flows through the right and left bundle branches within the septum. Finally, both the right and left bundle branches divide and carry the electrical charge into terminal filaments of delicate, feathery-like fibers called Purkinje fibers.

The conduction pathway within the heart, not to mention the heart itself, is an electrochemical process. In fact, a physiological redundancy has been designed into the cardiac electrical system. By this I mean that the heart’s muscle cells, the cardiac myocytes, have the capacity to fire at sustained rates, and thus each contract individually on their own accord. However, specified regions exist throughout the myocardium, as well as along the conduction pathway, that are designed to fire in a hierarchal fashion, with each region firing at determined rates and led by the SA node, or in other words, the so-called pacemaker cells.

— The Arteries That Crown the Heart —

Coronary arteries are special arteries that crown the heart. These arteries are important because they provide the heart with oxygen so that it pumps effortlessly. Notably, all coronary arteries stem from two main divisions, aptly named the right coronary artery and the left main coronary artery. Of these two divisions, the left main coronary artery further divides into the left anterior descending artery and the left circumflex artery (with the latter known simply as the circumflex artery). However, the coronary arteries are important not only because they supply the heart with oxygen, but because they are also susceptible to inflammation and injury that may lead to an occlusive artery disease known as coronary artery disease, a condition that restricts oxygen delivery.

Coronary artery disease is a silent, chronic process that has two phases. The first phase begins when white blood cells respond to inflammation between the innermost and middle layers (the tunica intima and tunica media layers, respectively) of one or more of the coronary arteries. As more and more white blood cells arrive, over time they form a viable bump called an atheroma within the inner wall (i.e., the luminal lining) of the affected artery. If the surface of the lumen over the bump bursts, then the second phase of coronary artery disease is initiated. In the second phase, the rupture or burst triggers platelets to aggregate around the injured tissue in an attempt to clot off the injury. In fact, this clot formation is called a thrombus. If the clot (or thrombus) significantly occludes the vessel, or if the clot formation occludes the vessels at just the right place within the coronary artery vasculature, a person may suffer from a heart attack. Heart attacks are a life threatening situation because the surrounding heart tissue, or the so-called mycocardium, that is normally supplied with oxygen by the flow of blood from the effected artery, will no longer receive its supply.

TECHNICAL INSERT: The lumen of the artery (i.e., the inner passageway of the artery) is characterized by a clean, smooth lining. This luminal lining is made up of endothelial cells, and it is these cells themselves that compose the innermost arterial layer (i.e., the tunica intima). This layer is much more delicate compared to the middle and outermost layers, the tunica media and the tunica adventia, respectively. Notably, the tunica media contains bands of smooth muscle, whereas the tunica adventia contains connective tissue. However, all three layers play an important role in the elastic nature of all arteries, but in the coronary arteries particularly.

One of the best ways to guard against coronary artery disease is to observe Virchow’s triad. Although a comprehensive exam of the three aspects of Virchow’s triad is beyond the scope of this article, it is interesting to note that the prevention of endothelial injury, or the reduction of endothelial dysfunction, is plausible through proper diet and exercise. When taken together, proper diet and adequate exercise can reduce or even counteract the inflammatory process that endothelial cells endure. And again, endothelial cells are those cell types that make up the tunica intima layer of arteries, and thus, it is these cells that are responsible for the smooth luminal lining of coronary arteries (i.e., the smooth inner-wall of the passageway of an artery).

virchow's-triadFigure 2: The three sides of Virchow’s triad.

And, indeed, diet and exercise are important since a luminal narrowing of 20%, as evidenced by coronary catheterization studies, is considered normal (Bovin, Klausen, & Petersen, 2013). What is more, studies show that between 30% – 50% of patients undergoing coronary CT angiography can have a stenosis (or a luminal narrowing) of up to 50% and not indicate signs of ischemic disease detectable by myocardial perfusion imaging, such as SPECT imaging (Cremer, Hachamovitch, & Tamarappoo, 2014).

— The Husk of Life: Glycocalyx —

The word glycocalyx is shaped from the prefix glyco or “sweet” and the suffix kalyx or “husk.” Because the glycocalyx forms a sugary, slimy coating of certain cell types in various animals, as well as several different cell types of the human body, we may think of it as the sweet husk (i.e., coating) of life. What is more, the prefix refers to the coating’s composition, which is carbohydrate-based. Microscopically, gylcocalyx looks like feathery fibers. First-year anatomy and physiology students would recognize the coating as the feathery elements of the microvilli of our intestinal tracts (recalling that the microvilli are actually the lining of the villi). However, important for our purposes, a glycocalyx coating is present on the innermost layer of our vasculature (i.e., on the luminal surface of the endothelial cells that comprise the tunica intima). In fact, a protective barrier made up of glycocalic fibers functions as a vital component to our cardiovascular health (Sieve, Munster-Kuhnel, & Hilfiker-Kleiner, 2018). Moreover, researchers investigating the embryonic stages of certain bird species have shown that a glycocalyx layer is present and viable as soon as blood flow starts (Henderson-Toth, Jahnsen, Jamarani, Al-Roubaie, & Jones, 2012).

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

– Psalm 139:13,14 (ESV)

— A Unique Thing About Cardiac Myocytes: The Heart’s Muscle Cells —

From organ to tissue to the cellular level, the cardiac myocytes are rather specialized muscle cells. According to Ferrari’s comprehensive review (2002) of these cells:

The myocytes are extraordinary cells. They are immortal and contract for a lifetime, supporting the peripheral circulation. In order to do so, they have a unique ultrastructure and unique biochemical machinery that allows them to produce enough adenosine triphosphate to support the contraction. This article deals with the ultrastructure of cardiac muscle and myocytes, and with our current understanding of cardiac metabolism. In addition, the process of contraction is taken into consideration, as well as the mechanisms that allow the adult myocyte to be a terminal cell. However, even the myocytes can die; this can happen by necrosis as a result of an external insult (e.g. a lack of oxygen due to an abrupt occlusion of a coronary artery) or by apoptosis – a genetically programmed type of death that is operative in foetal life. Interestingly, and quite amazingly, under pathological conditions such as acute myocardial infarction or congestive heart failure, this genetic programme is reinstated and apoptosis can then occur, thus resembling features that occur in the embryonic phenotype. The metabolic alterations that occur under pathological conditions such as myocardial ischaemia are also addressed in depth, with several references to the so-called ‘new ischaemic syndromes’, such as stunning, hibernation and reperfusion paradox. The review is presented in light of an understanding of the biochemical and biomolecular changes that occur in pathological conditions, with the hope that this will provide room for innovative therapeutic intervention.

Thinking outside the embryonic stem cell box

In her 2007 article “Stem Cells: Does Their Origin Matter?” published in Answers Magazine, Dr. Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist with Answers in Genesis, presented several key points:

  • Stem cells are classified as either totipotent or pluripotent/multipotent.
  • Totipotent stem cells are taken from embryonic tissue, an action that kills the embryo in the process. These cells are capable of forming any cell type in the body, but carry certain risks for the recipient.
  • Pluripotent and multipotent stem cells are harvested from adult tissue, and notably, the process does no harm to the adult. These stem cell types are capable of forming almost every cell type in the body.
  • Ethical issues concerning life and its preservation can be easily reconciled through a biblical worldview.
  • Interestingly, an alternate approach to using embryonic stem cells taps the potential to reprogram adult cells to become more like embryonic stem cells. Here Dr. Purdom cited the work by Silva, Chambers, Pollard, and Smith (2006) with the protein Nanog on nervous system cells, published in the journal Nature.

Optimistic remarks concerning the reprogramming of adult cells surfaced ten years later in an interview with acclaimed materials scientist Buddy Ratner, PhD of the University of Washington. The interview appeared in a 2017 issue of the biotechnology journal Future Science, and celebrated Dr. Ratner’s forty-nine years of work in biomaterials science. When asked about exciting advances we should look for in the next five years within the biomaterials arena, Dr. Ratner’s response touched on the plasticity of adult cells. What follows is the relevant excerpt of that interview:

Another interesting area is a new concept I call ‘cell plasticity’. Through most of Modern Biology we have used the term ‘terminally differentiate’ – a mature cell cannot go any place. Now people are getting the idea that cells are actually very plastic, they change from one cell type to another, and the ability to control these transformations means almost any cell has a stem cell-like ability. We do have defined stem cells but I think the ability to take an adult cell and to crank it back to a more plastic, stem-like state, then direct it, gives us tremendous options in the area we call regenerative medicine. Within the initial biomaterials ideas we said ‘well if a part fails we’ll replace it with plastic and metal’ – the regenerative medicine field says ‘if a part fails we’ll just regrow it’. Regenerative medicine interest is increasing and efforts in that area are rightly accelerating. The interesting thing is, this still requires an extensive use of biomaterials in many different forms such as scaffolds and drug delivery platforms, so biomaterials are an important foundation technology to make regenerative medicine a reality. (“Question #5,” para. 2)

Part 2 will focus on biomimetic applications in cardiovascular medicine!

Keeping the preceding paragraphs in mind, we now outline the second installment of our focus on cardiovascular medicine (part two of our article) in this biomimicry series. First, discussion related to tissue engineering and regenerative science in cardiovascular research will center specifically on multipotent and pluripotent stem cell therapy. Second, we will briefly expand on cell plasticity related to cardiovascular medicine. Third, we will draw attention to the interesting, evolving role of protein therapy in cardiology, such as efforts to treat heart attack (i.e., myocardial infarction) by reprogramming/regenerating heart muscle cells (i.e., the cardiac myocytes). Fourth, we will highlight a novel approach to reperfusion therapy by Singh and Wang (2014), who introduced the concept of using coronary artery stents mimicked after the skeletal structure of the monarch caterpillar. Finally, we will explore a variety of other biomimetic applications that have promising potential to impact cardiac and endovascular patient care.

monarch-caterpillar-cvcuFigure 3: The segmented structure of the monarch caterpillar has inspired a novel coronary stent concept that offers segmented movement relative to pulsatile blood flow through the coronary arteries, as well as movement related to the heart’s squeezing action.

References

Bovin, A., Klausen, I.C., & Petersen, L.J. (2013). Myocardial perfusion imaging in patients with a recent, normal exercise test. World Journal of Cardiology, 5(3), 54-59. [View in article] [View in PubMed]

Cremer, P., Hachamovitch, R., & Tamarappoo, B. (2014). Clinical decision making with myocardial perfusion imaging in patients with known or suspected coronary artery disease. Seminars in Nuclear Medicine, 44(4), 320-329. [View in PubMed]

Ferrari, R. (2002). Healthy versus sick myocytes: Metabolism, structure and function. European Heart Journal Supplements, 4 (supplement G), G1-G12. [View in article]

Henderson-Toth, C.E., Jahnsen, E.D., Jamarani, R., Al-Roubaie, S., & Jones, E.A. (2012). The glycocalyx is present as soon as blood flow is initiated and is required for normal vascular development. Developmental Biology, 369(2), 330-339. [View in article] [View in PubMed]

Purdom, G. (2007, January 1). Stem cells: Does their origin matter? Answers Magazine. [View in online article]

Ratner, B. (2017). Forty-nine years in Biomaterials Science: An interview with Buddy Ratner. Future Science OA, 3(1), FSO158. [View in article] [View in PubMed]

Roche, E.T., Horvath, M.A., Wamala, I., Alazmani, A., Song, S.E., Whyte, W., … Walsh, C.J. (2017). Soft robotic sleeve supports heart function. Science Translational Medicine, 9(373), eaaf3925. [View abstract] [View in PubMed]

Sieve, I., Munster-Kuhnel, A.K., & Hilfiker-Kleiner, D. (2018). Regulation and function of endothelial glycocalyx layer in vascular diseases. Vascular Pharmacology, 100, 26-33. [View in article] [View in PubMed]

Silva, J., Chambers, I., Pollard, S., & Smith, A. (2006). Nanog promotes transfer of pluripotency after cell fusion. Nature, 441, 997-1001. [View abstract] [View in PubMed]

Singh, C., & Wang, X. (2014). A biomimetic approach for designing stent-graft structures: Caterpillar cuticle as design model. Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 30, 16-29. [View abstract] [View in PubMed]

Wagner, H., Terkelsen, C.J., Friberg, H., Harnek, J., Kern, K., Lassen, J.F., & Olivecrona, G.K. (2010). Clinical arrest in the catheterization laboratory: A 5-year experience of using mechanical chest compressions to facilitate PCI during prolonged resuscitation efforts. Resuscitation, 81(4), 383-387. [View abstract] [View in PubMed] [View in article]

Wininger, K.L. (2007). Chest compressions: biomechanics and injury. Radiologic Technology, 78(4), 269-274. [View abstract] [View in PubMed]

Wininger, K.L. (2018, September 14). Biomimicry 101: Biomaterials and tissue engineering. [blog post]. Retrieved from https://studiesoncreation.org/2018/09/14/biomimicry-101-biomaterials-and-tissue-engineering/.

Previous articles in this series:

Stay tuned as we continue our focus on cardiovascular medicine!

In our next installment, we not only continue our discussion on cardiac tissue engineering, but we will also highlight novel biomimetic applications across various areas of clinical cardiology and endovascular research.

Help us celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary

apollo-11-bootprintApollo 11 bootprint (Courtesy of Buzz Aldrin and NASA)

Today marks NASA’s 60th anniversary!

Please help celebrate our unique place in the universe by liking (and sharing) some of our recent blogs related to all things cosmological and meteorological.

The blogs:

  1. Interviewing Steven Gollmer, PhD

  2. About the Moon – Armstrong Air and Space Museum

Selected excerpt:

Armstrong’s Famous Walk
History indeed offers much perspective on Armstrong’s famous first steps on the lunar surface. What follows is an excerpt from the book From Beirut to Jerusalem by author and columnist Thomas L. Friedman (1991):
When American astronaut Neil Armstrong, a devout Christian, visited Israel after his trip to the moon, he was taken on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.
“I told him, ‘Look, Jesus was a Jew,’” recalled Ben-Dov. “These are the steps that lead to the Temple, so he must have walked here many times.”
Armstrong then asked if these were the original steps, and Ben-Dov confirmed they were.
“So Jesus stepped right here?” asked Armstrong again.
“That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.
“I have to tell you,” Armstrong said to the Israeli archeologist, “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.”
The Exchange between the Astronaut and the Archeologist
Considering Armstrong’s reclusive nature, it is quite amazing that the exchange between Armstrong and Ben-Dov was ever captured in the annals of history. Even more remarkable is how we came to know of it, as if we were there alongside Armstrong in Jerusalem touring the Temple Mount and listening in on him questioning Ben-Dov. But, most importantly, rather than getting a potentially biased opinion about the first moon walk appearing in an op-ed piece somewhere from some pundit, we can directly credit Armstrong himself as the one offering such a candid viewpoint on his own first steps.
  1. A Trek of Galactic Proportions

  2. The Expanding Universe: The Redshifts of Galaxies and Quasars Indicate Distance

  3. Pi Day Celebrates 3.14159…

orion-and-the-pleiadesAll of creation points to a Creator

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the chords of Orion?

– Job 38:31 (ESV)

All of Creation Points to a Creator

The truth Ashland Creation Colloquium adheres to is that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and although it is not a book of science, everything the Bible says about science is true.

As an example, consider Orion and the Pleiades. The Book of Job says that the Pleiades is confined, whereas the three stars making up Orion’s belt are not. In recent decades, observations from modern physics and astronomy have shown that the constellation Pleiades, appearing to the right of Orion as a faint ball of light, is in reality a globular star cluster containing hundreds of stars. By imposing a gravitational pull, each star in the Pleiades constellation constrains its neighbor within the cluster. Conversely, similar observations of the most identifiable and perfectly aligned three stars in the night sky, those comprising the belt of Orion – that is, the stars Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka – reveal no such gravitational attraction on each other. In other words, despite their linear appearance, distances among these three stars go well beyond the constraining gravitational effects of any one star on either of the other two. Therefore, the alignment of Orion’s belt is much more than just an illusion of accidental geometry and optics.

Let’s consider a puzzle. Despite the limitations of our human condition, why are we able to understand the universe? Why can we study it – from far-reaching macroscopic vistas, as seen in Orion and the Pleiades, to the delicate microscopic level of subatomic particles, such as protons, neutrons, and electrons? Answering these types of questions is what Ashland Creation Colloquium is all about.

The 2018–2019 Creation Science Essay Contests

Celebrate further and challenge yourself by entering our 2018-2019 creation science essay contests for high school students and college undergraduates. When choosing from selected writing prompts that include diverse subject matter related to cosmology and meteorology, you can investigate the expanding, observable universe by describing the duality of light, or research and report on the heating and cooling of the planet, or even explore the interactions of particle physics by detailing concepts related to PET scans in medicine. Please click here for more information.

A harvest-time thanksgiving

harvest-moon-2018
The importance of astronomical observatories among early civilizations, especially among early agricultural societies, came directly from the need of people to construct calendars on which they could incorporate their celestial observations to predict the position of the sun and the phases of the moon for crop planting and harvesting (Genesis 1:14-18, English Standard Version; Struik, 1987).

A harvest-time thanksgiving

Working late into the evening hours in a not-so-distant past, farmers in North America relied heavily on the light of the full moon nearest the fall equinox to help bring in their crops. This moon came to be called the Harvest Moon.

— The full moon of harvest —

Although each year the fall equinox settles on the 21st or 22nd of September, the full moon phase nearest this seasonal change ranges between mid-September and early October.

In fact, during this time of the year, moon rise occurs 20 minutes sooner each evening (or only 30 minutes later as opposed to the normal 50 minutes later each successive night). Collectively, this cycle spans three days before and after the official full moon calendar date, or roughly a week’s worth of time. Even more, moon rise each evening during that week is nearly simultaneous with sunset. And the cumulative amount of light (that is, the light given by the sun and all the light reflected by the moon) translates into quite a striking event for harvesters, especially in the days before flood lamps appeared on farm equipment.

With the choicest fruits of the sun and the rich yield of the months.

– Deuteronomy 33:14 (ESV)

Fall equinox occurred this year on Saturday, September 22nd, at 9:54 p.m. (EDT), but the official full moon of harvest – the full Harvest Moon – occurs tonight, Monday, September 24th, at 10:52 p.m. (EDT). This timestamp marks the date and time at which there is 100% completeness in the face of the moon.

So, shortly after enjoying tonight’s sunset at 7:22 p.m. (EDT), look towards the east and enjoy this year’s Harvest Moon, which is set to rise at 7:35 p.m. (EDT).

References

Struik, D.J. (1987). The beginnings. A concise history of mathematics (4th ed.). New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.

Biomimicry 101: Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

mother-of-pearlBeads of nacre, also known as mother of pearl

When you ponder biomimicry, think design, intelligent design, and creation, but please don’t think evolution. And when considering biomimetic applications, let your imagination know no bounds.

This installment in our series on biomimicry examines biomaterials and tissue engineering, with an emphasis on the foreign body response and normal wound healing. This subject matter is intended to glorify God and His creation, which includes human beings as a special creation.

Biomaterials

A biomaterial may be thought of as engineered material (derived synthetically or naturally-occurring) placed into the body to minimize loss of structure and function. In some cases a biomaterial may be referred to as a biomedical material. In fact, The Williams Dictionary of Biomaterials (1999) defines a biomaterial as “material intended to interface with biological systems to evaluate, treat, augment or replace any tissue, organ or function of the body” (p. 42). Examples of the body systems where medical implants can be applied include the following:

  • Skeletal system—joint replacements, bone cement, bony defect repair, artificial tendon/ligament, and dental implants
    • Mollusk shells, such as oyster shells and mussel shells, have been studied as biomineralization models. In fact, the inner lustrous lining of shells such as oysters is nacre, otherwise known as mother of pearl (Luz and Mano, 2009).
  • Cardiovascular system—blood vessel prosthesis (grafts or stents), heart valves, implantable generators (pacemakers, defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy devices)
  • Organs—artificial heart, artificial kidney, artificial pancreas, and skin templates
  • Senses—neuromodulation stimulators (cochlear implants, and deep brain or spinal cord stimulators), intraocular lenses, contact lenses, implantable seizure-detection devices, and pain pumps

The goal of biomaterials science is to achieve biocompatibility. The Williams (1999) definition of biocompatibility is “the ability of a material to perform with an appropriate host response in a specific application” (p. 40). This implies survival of the material in a tissue matrix without causing significant inflammation or irritation on an ongoing basis. A truly biocompatible material would promote little-to-no such effects. Despite advances in technology, however, all currently available biomaterial implants are viewed by the body as foreign objects, also called foreign bodies. Foreign body implants trigger the body’s foreign body response, which is a protective immunological response that occurs in several steps. The final step is encapsulation, a process that effectually walls off the implant with stands of fibrous, connective tissue.

— Immunogenicity and the Foreign Body Response —

The term immunogenicity describes the likelihood of a foreign object triggering an immune response, such as the foreign body response. What follows is a synopsis of the foreign body response to an implant:

  • First, neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and tissue react to the implant by a process known as the inflammatory reaction. Simultaneously, certain proteins cover the surface of the implant with a thin film. These proteins also serve as signaling agents and markers, and are collectively known as matricellular proteins (Ratner, 2001).
  • Second, the inflammatory reaction can bring macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to the implant site. However, whether or not the macrophages are able to successfully engulf and extrude the foreign body determines the next step.
    • Neutrophils and macrophages are the two types of white blood cells of most importance in the scope of this discussion. White blood cells are also known by their group name leukocytes.
  • Third, in most, if not all cases of implanted foreign bodies, like those intended as medical devices and implants, macrophages are unable to extrude them. Consequently, the macrophages coalesce around the implant to form multi-nucleated giant cells, which act to encase the implant in granulated tissue called a granuloma. Over time, because of its fibrous connective tissue capsule, the granuloma effectually walls off the implant.
    • Figure 1 in the aforementioned article by Wininger, Bester, & Deshpande (2012) shows three locations, after time, where fibrous capsules are most likely to develop with an implantable spinal neurostimulator. These locations are the epidural space, the incision site for the tunneled lead wires, and the gluteal pocket that accepts the rechargeable battery. Figure 2 in the same article is the fluoroscopic image showing the lead wires in the epidural space of the thoracic spine. Again, the article examines the medical necessity and benefits of the application, and outlines how the benefits outweigh the risks in the case presented.

— Foreign Body Response: Fibrous, Connective Tissue Capsule —

Tissue encapsulation is the primary long-term defense to a foreign body implant. However, tissue encapsulation ultimately impacts the usefulness of the implant. In many cases, the thickness of the capsule plays a major role, with thicker capsules being more detrimental to the effectiveness of some implants than thinner ones around the same device type. Regardless of capsule thickness, however, the interface between the implant and tissue will encounter ongoing macrophage activity, which can be detrimental to the success and longevity of certain types of implants. For instance, osteoclasts (a macrophage-related cell associated with bony tissue) can eat away at bone adjacent to the surface of orthopedic implants, and thus loosen the integrity of the application.

A better understanding of the foreign body response, especially the factors that determine the thickness of fibrous tissue encapsulation, is an active area in biomaterials research. According to Anderson (2004):

The form and topography of the surface of the biomaterial determine the composition of the foreign-body reaction. With biocompatible materials, the composition of the foreign-body reaction in the implant site may be controlled by the surface properties of the biomaterial, the form of the implant, and the relationship between the surface area of the biomaterial and the volume of the implant. (p. 311)

Given the importance of the foreign body response and the consequences of tissue encapsulation, the role of the macrophage cannot be overestimated. In fact, researchers have discovered numerous macrophage phenotypes involved in both the foreign body response and normal wound healing (Kohl and DiPietro, 2011).

— A Closer Look: Normal Wound Healing —

In normal wound healing, “neutrophils and macrophages clean the wound site of bacteria, debris, and damaged tissue” (Ratner, 2001, p. 1343). Within this setting, macrophages along with other cells reconstruct the site with vascularized tissue. Noticeably, as part of the reconstruction and revascularization phases, numerous proteins, again, collectively called matricellular proteins, are involved. However, once a wound is healed (i.e., a vascularized network is achieved), the matricellular proteins are no longer needed, and they vanish from the wound site.

What is more, some suggest the matricellular proteins play the key role in the applications of implanted biomaterials. According to Ratner (2001), “an understanding of the matricellular proteins involved in wound healing suggests novel surface modification approaches to improve the performance of implants, including endosseous devices” (p. 1343).

All of this leaves us with the impression that the supportive tissue around a medical implant site, including the cells adjacent to the site, plays a crucial role. This zone contains the extracellular matrix.

— The Extracellular Matrix and the Idea of Tissue Scaffolds —

Apart from blood, all cells in the human body reside within what is called the extracellular matrix. Chan and Leong (2008) reviewed five functions of the extracellular matrix:

  • Structural support for cells (i.e., a physical environment for cells)
  • Mechanical properties that are associated with normal tissue function, such as rigidity and elasticity
  • A regulatory function that provides cues for residing cells to regulate their activities
  • A growth factor reservoir that helps to regulate the activities of these factors
  • A degradable physical environment not only for new vascularization, but also for remodeling. This plasticity is a response to developmental, physiological, and pathological changes during tissue morphology, homeostasis (i.e., maintenance of equilibrium), and wound healing, respectively.

From a functional point of view, a tissue scaffold is the bioengineered analog of the extracellular matrix. What is more, O’Brien (2011) describes tissue scaffolds as one part of a three-pronged approach to tissue engineering. The remaining two prongs are the cells and the growth factors/bioreactor.

The concept of tissue engineering

In the late 20th century, the process of fabricating tissue in the laboratory became known as tissue engineering, and this effectually caused a paradigm shift in reconstructive surgery (Bell, 2000).

  • This exact argument can be made for regenerative medicine, which is a subject explored in greater detail later in this series. However, for now we may consider regenerative medicine as a branch of medicine that attempts to improve structure and function at the biological tissue level, and very often at the cellular level. Ultimately, the purpose is to prevent deficits that can lead to functional impairments at the organ and whole-body levels. In fact, the goals of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and even biomaterials, are closely related: minimize loss of (or attempt to improve) structure and function. What is more, because of the importance of minimizing loss, particularly functional loss at the whole-body level, the notion of regenerative rehabilitation has become a meaningful issue within the field of physical therapy to assist patients in improving their functional capacity.

Three examples of biomimicry applied to tissue engineering

Bone/nacre scaffolds

With respect to biomimicry and bony tissue engineering, no other material has been examined as intensely as nacre. This is because of nacre’s inherently high biocompatibility. What is more, the mechanical properties of nacre have also played a role in its investigation as a viable biomimetic. Nacre, as a biomineral, has a consistent hierarchal structure of mineral layering (Kakisawa & Sumitomo, 2011, and Luz & Mano, 2009). The use of nacre has been investigated in dental, oral and facial surgery, as well as various orthopedic applications (Gerhard et al., 2017, and Ratner, 2001). In fact, in recent years, biomimetic dentistry has emerged as a branch of dentistry, and nacre organic matrix extract has been used for enamel remineralization (Green, Lai, & Jung, 2014).

Bone/marine sponge collagen scaffolds

A recent approach in the development of a biocompatible bony matrix centers on the feasibility of modeling the marine sponge. Interest in developing sponge-based matrices exists because of the diversity in the types of sponges available and because of the porous properties of their skeletal frameworks that invite cellular infiltration (Green, Howard, Yang, Kelly, & Oreffo, 2003).

Heart/cardiac tissue engineering

Because of the unique makeup of cardiac tissue, the work surrounding cardiac tissue scaffolds has focused on mimicking the physiological properties of the heart itself. This fact is true whether we are talking about designing artificial heart valves that mimic the mechanical properties of native heart valve tissue (Capulli et al., 2017), or boldly seeking to engineer myocardial tissues that elicit the unique mechanical, biological, and electrical properties existing at cell-tissue interfaces throughout the heart (Kaiser & Coulombe, 2015).

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

– Psalm 139:13,14 (ESV)

Can you imagine a career researching and developing tissue scaffolds that might even mimic nature – God’s great creation?

Christian scholarship extending into professional roles is sincerely needed in education and culture. Chemical engineering and bioengineering can be a promising career for those who like to study physiology, microbiology, and biochemistry. As a starting point, we encourage you to reach out to teachers at Christian colleges. Undergraduate studies that include anatomy and physiology, as well as kinesiology, can provide a firm basis for learning the practical implications of biology and chemistry. This foundation can lead to future studies in biomaterials and tissue engineering, including biomimetic applications, as graduate students.

References

Anderson, J.M. (2004). Inflammation, wound healing, and the foreign-body response. In Ratner, B., Hoffman, A., Schoen, F., & Lemons, J. (Eds.), Biomaterials science: An introduction to materials in medicine (2nd ed., pp. 296-303). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.

Bell, E. (2000). Tissue engineering in perspective. In Lanza, R.P., Langer, R., & Vacanti, J. (Eds.), Principles of tissue engineering (2nd ed., pp. xxxv-xli). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Capulli, A.K., Emmert, M.Y., Pasqualini, F.S., Kehl, D., Caliskan, E., Lind, J.U., … Parker, K. (2017). JetValve: Rapid manufacturing of biohybrid scaffolds for biomimetic heart value replacement. Biomaterials, 133, 229-241. [View in article]

Chan, B.P. & Leong, K.W. (2008). Scaffolding in tissue engineering: General approaches and tissue-specific considerations. European Spine Journal, 17(supplement 4), 467-479. [View in article]

Gerhard, E.M., Wang, W., Li, C., Guo, J., Ozbolat, I.T., Rahn K.M., … Yang, J. (2017). Design strategies and applications of nacre-based biomaterials. Acta Biomaterialia, 54, 21-34. [View in article]

Green, D., Howard, D., Yang, X., Kelly, M., & Oreffo, R.O. (2003). Natural marine sponge fiber skeleton: a biomimetic scaffold for human osteoprogenitor cell attachment, growth, and differentiation. Tissue Engineering, 9(6), 1159-1166. [View in article]

Green, D.W., Lai, W., & Jung, H. (2014). Evolving marine biomimetics for regenerative dentistry. Marine Drugs, 12(5), 2877-2912. [View in article]

Kaiser, N.J., & Coulombe, K.L.K. (2015). Physiologically inspired cardiac scaffolds for tailored in vivo function and heart regeneration. Biomedical Materials, 10(3), 1-26. [View in article]

Kakisawa, H., & Sumitomo, T. (2011). The toughening mechanism of nacre and structural materials inspired by nacre. Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, 12(6), 1-14. [View in article]

Koh, T.J., & DiPietro, L.A. (2011). Inflammation and wound healing: The role of the macrophage. Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine, 13(e23), 1-14. [View in article]

Luz, G.M., & Mano J.F. (2009). Biomimetic design of materials and biomaterials inspired by the structure of nacre. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 367, 1587-1605. [View in article]

O’Brien, F.J. (2011). Biomaterials & scaffolds for tissue engineering. Materials Today, 14(3), 88-95. [View in article]

Ratner, B.D. (2001). Replacing and renewing: Synthetic materials, biomimetics, and tissue engineering in implant dentistry. Journal of Dental Education, 65(12), 1340-1347. [View in article]

Sled, E. (2018). Biblical integration in anatomy and physiology: A design approach. Answers Research Journal, 11, 141-148. [View in article]

Williams, D.F. (Ed.) (1999). The Williams dictionary of biomaterials. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press.

Wininger, K.L., Bester, M.L., & Deshpande, K.K. (2012). Spinal cord stimulation to treat postthoracotomy neuralgia: Non–small-cell cancer: A case report. Pain Management Nursing, 13(1), 52-59. [View in article]

Previous articles in this series:

The next installment in our biomimetic series focuses on cardiovascular medicine!

Our next installment will discuss biomimetic applications in cardiovascular medicine, including commentary on how much of the work in cardiac tissue engineering is focusing on regenerative medicine. However, with respect to regenerative medicine, we will try to center our discussion on methods that think outside-the-stem-cell box.

Biomimicry 101: Introduction to Biomimicry (and Biomimetic Applications)

kingfishersThe common or Eurasian kingfisher (depicted above on the left), and the belted kingfisher (depicted above on the right).
bullet-trainThe nose of Japan’s 500 series bullet train was fabricated to mimic the design inherent in the beak of a kingfisher to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics as the train exits tunnels.

Since the 1940’s, biomimicry has become increasingly commonplace as an integral approach to problem solving. The word biomimicry means to mimic life; the adjective form of the word is biomimetics.

— Biomimicry and the Bullet Train —

Biomimetic applications are becoming more widespread, and solutions to the problems they solve are growing more and more purposeful and specialized, with the array of applications varying, for instance, from medicine to industrial design and industrial engineering. One exceptional case in recent years involved Japan’s 500 series bullet trains. A design flaw surfaced when this series came online in the late 1990’s. The issue boiled down to the bullet-shaped, rounded-off nose designated for each lead car. It was anticipated that this shape would be highly aerodynamic, but the contours favored a rather unnerving pressure gradient. This pressure gradient, known as a shock or pressure wave, triggered a sonic boom every time a train exited tunnels at operating speeds. To remedy this problem, train architects took their cues from kingfishers.

A kingfisher is a type of bird ranging throughout many temperate and tropical climates. Often one or two may be seen perched above banks along rivers and fresh water ponds and lakes (see the images of two different species of kingfishers above). As the name suggests, they feed on fish. What is more, the kingfisher often conveys a stately, prominent mannerism, which lends itself towards being somewhat showy. You might say they have good stage presence. As master anglers, kingfishers dive headfirst into the water to catch their meals. They strike with skilled accuracy — starting from a perch or in a hovering position, and then plunging out of the sky beak-first into the water like a dart. Yet, even though their beaks pierce the water, breaking the water’s surface tension, kingfishers barely create a ripple.

It was this ability, the zeroing out of the point-of-entry pressure wave, which made a distinct impression on the 500 series’ architects. And it was inspiration resulting from that impression which ended up being the key to solving the problematic sonic boom dilemma. With the dynamics of the kingfisher in mind, the architects retooled the nose of the bullet train to mimic the inherent design in the kingfisher’s beak. Indeed, after completing their imaginative and inspired rhinoplasty, the trains’ newly engineered noses nullified the pressure gradient that had once plagued them in the original fabrication. Most importantly, the new, elongated profile did away with the sonic boom altogether.

The example of the bullet train gives us a clear picture of how biomimicry can capture the imagination and attention of industrial designers and mechanical engineers. The 500 series bullet trains operated from 1997 to 2010.

Remark: By all accounts, the species of kingfisher that train designers took notice of is the common or Eurasian kingfisher (depicted above on the left). The kingfisher common to North America is the belted kingfisher (depicted above on the right).

— The Original Hook and Loop Fasteners —

The original hook and loop fasteners (think VELCRO® brand fasteners) lend another historical perspective on biomimicry. Swiss engineer and inventor George de Mestral discovered these novel fasteners. The story says that when walking his dog through the Swiss countryside in the early 1940’s, de Mestral was intrigued with the burrs that stuck to its fur coat (as well as to de Mestral’s clothes). Upon closer inspection, de Mestral realized that the tips of the spikes of a burr have a unique design, a tiny hook. And while each burr contained dozens of spikes, in reality each burr contained dozens of miniscule hooks. What is more, de Mestral came up with a way to duplicate these naturally-occurring miniaturized hooks synthetically, and he combined them with fasteners containing hundreds of tiny loops. Today, VELCRO® brand fasteners continue to be a well-known application of biomimicry, as they are by far one of the most widespread, useful examples.

Remark: Please click here to learn more about the history of VELCRO® brand fasteners, including the fun fact that these fasteners accompanied Neil Armstrong during mankind’s first walk on the moon. (As a side note, readers who are interested in knowing more about Neil Armstrong may do so via our recent blog that celebrated the 49th anniversary of Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. In addition, readers will also find interesting tidbits comparing and contrasting evolutionary theories about the moon versus its creation.)

— Biomimetic Innovation —

Because biomimicry is such an innovative and unique field of study, we at Ashland Creation Colloquium are dedicating an entire series to the topic. We are calling the series Biomimicry 101. Our aim is to showcase creation. Creation is the biblical account of everything concerning our world and the universe (i.e., the who, what, when, where, and why – and perhaps even the how). At its core, creation takes into account “intelligent design” via a designer (i.e., creator). This designer is the God of the Bible.

Remark: Creation scientists carefully consider biblical perspectives when exploring, testing, and describing the richness of the universe. Given that scientists specialize in particular fields of study, creation scientists explore the universe through specific scientific disciplines encompassing the finite to the infinite, i.e., the life sciences to the field of cosmology.

For the balance of this article, we will clarify several key terms that lay a foundation for relevant and comparative studies instrumental to the field of biomimicry. Then, given this foundation, we outline topical categories that will be covered for the remainder of the series.

Key terms – the so-called “bio” group:

The intent of this section is to help differentiate between key terms, which collectively, we will refer to as the “bio” group. Individuals who work within this group are well-suited to explore and apply biomimicry.

Biomimicry, biomimetic(s), and bionic(s)

  • As defined above, the first two terms simply refer to mimicking life, with the first term being a noun and the second term the adjective form.
  • From the perspective of science and medicine, bionics may be thought of as the integration of that which is mechanical with that which is physiological (via a better understanding of the nervous system). The best example is functional electrical stimulation, which is a field that seeks to restore movement and automatic function, among other goals. Technology brought about by neural engineering is at the core of bionics, the leading edge of the neural interface.

Bioengineering

  • We can think of bioengineering as a broad category that focuses on medical applications. The field of regenerative medicine gives us a prime example. One specific area of research in regenerative medicine is the attempt to rectify impairments associated with the loss of normal spinal function. For example, attempts are ongoing to regenerate diseased vertebral discs, as well as damaged nerve cells (i.e., neurons) within the spinal cord.
  • Bioengineering may be defined within the broader category of biomedical engineering. However, because bioengineering focuses almost purely on innovations in healthcare and medicine, distinguishing between bioengineering and biomedical engineering can have practical advantages for clear communication.

Biomedical Engineering

  • As described above, biomedical engineering can serve as an umbrella term for bioengineering. The reason refers to the recognition of the term biomedical engineers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify individuals who work in biomedical engineering. However, often the term biomedical engineer is used by individuals who service medical equipment, such as physical therapy equipment, operating room equipment, or heart monitors. In most regions across the country, you will find a biomedical engineering department housed in your local hospital, where the hospital staff may simply call the department “biomed.”

Bioneer versus Biomedical Engineer

  • The term bioneer is a recently introduced term which combines the words “biological” and “pioneer.” And although bioneer has not received a formal definition, it seems to be used in a colloquial sense to describe a person at the forefront of the biological sciences frontier.
  • In contrast to bioneer, the term biomedical engineer has been widely adopted. According to the website of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (click here), biomedical engineers are individuals who “combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.”
    • Field engineer is a term sometimes used within biomedical engineering. The term is mostly associated with biomedical engineers employed by the makers of highly specialized medical equipment, such as MRI and PET scanners. These individuals have gone through specialized training to travel in the field to handle more delicate service and repair requests.

Biostatistics

  • The discipline that integrates statistical analysis with the biological sciences is biostatistics. For example, a biostatistician may work with biologists, chemists, material scientists, chemical engineers, and industrial engineers to apply statistical methods that help solve real-world problems. Biostatisticians also provide analytical guidance for feasibility studies, preliminary research for investigational trials, and ongoing support for current research programs.

Biosensor(s)

  • Biosensors are devices that use biological agents and/or processes in the detection of other biological agents and/or processes, as well as devices that detect biological states and diseases. Devices that use biological agents to detect other biological agents include microfluidic chips that can be engineered for the detection of malaria, for example, or a microelectromechanical system (often abbreviated MEMS) that can be used to detect Dengue virus. This type of technology is often referred to as lab-on-a-chip technology or point-of-care testing. An example of techniques that detect biological states and diseases is molecular imaging, which is considered the frontier in biosensing in the field of diagnostic medical imaging over the past few decades. Molecular imaging detects physiological abnormalities; it is synonymous with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET scans), and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT scans).

Biomaterial(s)

  • Biomaterials are engineered materials placed into the body to minimize loss of structure and function. The material or object placed into the body is known as a foreign body. Based on our body’s reaction to such materials, there are three characterizations of the foreign body, as follows:
    • Intolerable
    • Tolerable
    • Biocompatible
      • The goal of biomaterial engineers is to achieve biocompatibility. To date, however, this goal has not yet truly been attained. Therefore, understanding normal tissue healing and foreign body response becomes critical to achieving biocompatibility.

Biomechanics (think Kinesiology)

  • The study of biomechanics is to better understand the mechanics of the body, and it includes human locomotion as well as body systems (such as the cardiovascular system). A biomechanics approach to locomotion first considers statics versus dynamics, and then considers kinetics and kinematics. We can say that kinetics examines the external forces acting on the body, and that kinematics describes movement without regard to such forces. Often the words biomechanics and kinesiology are used interchangeably. However, kinesiology means the study of movement, and it is more intently focused on anatomy and physiology, particularly the neuromusculoskeletal system.

The focus of this series seeks to relate the benefits of biomimicry on the humanities, and the topics that will be surveyed are as follows:

  • Biomaterials
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Other Medical Applications
  • Biosensors
  • Fire Extinguishers, Winglets, and Wings
  • Insert: On Eagles Wings
  • Water Purification Systems
  • Human Gait: Biomechanics/Kinesiology
  • For More Information (and Education)
    • Here we feature a formal biomimicry fellowship sponsored through the University of Akron’s Integrated Bioscience PhD Program, and similarly highlight the Great Lakes Biomimicry Institute.

When you find yourself pondering just what biomimicry is, think design, intelligent design, and creation, but please don’t think evolution. And then when considering biomimetic applications, let your imagination know no bounds.

The next installment in our biomimetic series will deal with biomaterials!