Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) are the leading cause of death worldwide. They result in more than 2.4 million deaths per year in the US, more than 4 million deaths in Europe and North Asia, and one-third of total deaths in developing countries. Heart attacks can be difficult to treat – effective surgical care for heart attacks requires transdisciplinary collaboration – but there are, nonetheless, treatments available. One such treatment is to apply a cardiac patch, a structure that replaces or assists damaged tissue before the entire organ is affected. A new viscoelastic patch, recently developed through collaborative efforts between clinicians and engineers, demonstrates promising results for future cardiac therapies.
The unprecedented pace of innovation today leaves many people wondering about our future. Whether robots will take our jobs; whether AI-based decisions about our security, finances, and health are obscure or biased; and whether our increasing energy demands will drive the Earth’s climate to the edge of catastrophe – these questions occupy the forefront of contemporary discourse.
Lord Browne of Madingley, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, argues in ‘Make, Think, Imagine’that we need not and must not put the brakes on technological advance. Civilisation is founded on engineering innovation; all progress stems from the human urge to make things and to shape the world around us, resulting in greater freedom, health and wealth for all. Below is an excerpt from the book.
3D printing optoelectronic devices directly into curved structures could create a new paradigm for ocular prosthetics.
Today, optoelectronic devices such as LEDs and light receptors (photodiodes) are everywhere, ranging in application from mobile phone screens and energy-efficient lighting to large digital display panels and image sensors. These devices – which convert electrical energy into light or vice versa– transmit a substantial amount of visual information. Made using the same techniques used to make computer chips, optoelectronic devices similarly get smaller and smaller as technology evolves, eventually coming into closer contact with human bodies (the now-omnipresent smartwatch, for instance). With this increasing proximity comes an increasing role in our lives; where we currently rely on wearable sensing and therapeutic devices to monitor our health, routine use of smart prosthetics in our skin, tissues, and organs is fast becoming a reality.
2015 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering winner, Dr Robert Langer, recently spoke with Health Europa about his introduction to bioengineering, his work on large molecule drug delivery, and the progression and impact of bioengineering in recent decades. The below article has been republished with permission.
As this week is European Week Against Cancer (EWAC), we speak to Dr Robert Langer, the first person to engineer polymers to advance drug delivery, treating many diseases such as cancer.
Introducing Dr Langer, the ground-breaking chemical engineer who has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for his revolutionary advances in engineering. Langer was named as one of the 25 most important individuals in biotechnology by Forbes Magazine and CNN (1999) and Bio World (1990), and as one of the 100 most important people – ‘America’s Best’ – by Time magazine (2001). In light of European Week Against Cancer, Langer talks to Health Europa about the evolving environment of biotechnology, utilising large molecule-controlled drug delivery, treating diseases such as cancer and the future of his research.
Uwe Bornscheueris biotechnologist and holds the chair for Biotechnology and Enzyme Catalysis at the University of Greifswald in northeastern Germany. Gert Weber, a structural biologist and biochemist, is affiliated with the Helmholtz-Zentrum-Berlin, Bessy II Synchrotron. They have teamed upto improve the catalytic properties of plastic-degrading enzymes for use in sustainable recycling – iteratively engineering proteins on the basis of molecular structure.
We’ve long celebrated plastics for their strength and simple manufacture, but their high production rates and uncontrolled disposal have turned them into a global environmental burden. The amount of industrially-produced plastics increases year-on-year, and their production depends on an ever-declining resource – fossil fuels. For us to limit environmental pollution and prepare for the reduction in crude oil, we need to introduce more sustainable (and biodegradable) polymers into the supply chain and stop wasting our existing oil-based plastics – ensuring that they enter a circular and sustainable economy.
Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a way to detect low levels of antibodies in a person’s blood – potentially allowing the individual to get treatment before they even feel sick. Brian Geiss, a senior researcher in the project, explores the possibilities of such a point-of-care diagnostic below.
“The world is becoming a smaller place” has become a bit of a cliché, but it does have a kernel of truth to it. I can be sitting on my porch in Colorado drinking coffee in the morning, and 12 hours later be having a sushi lunch in Tokyo. The movement of people, goods, and materials all over the world has become so fast and efficient that anything and anyone can get to any part of the world in less than 36 hours. Compared to just 100 years ago, our society has gone from relatively isolated independent countries to a robust interconnected network with constant flow between nodes.
The agriculture industry is fundamental to securing a sustainable future for humanity. Few other sectors have such enormous potential to benefit the planet in the face of population increase, resource depletion, and climate change.
For some observers, the focus on agriculture pertains to the simple concern of feeding 9.8 billion people from a static (or worse: declining) arable land base. For others, the focus lies more on the quality of our soils, watercourses and ecosystems, and their ability to support life or sequester carbon.
Regardless, the basic mathematical realities of our finite land mass and the competing demands upon it – rapidly changing weather patterns and increasing rates of consumption – lay bare a stark challenge: producing more food from less land, with less waste, lower inputs, and lower environmental burden. According to estimates, we need to produce as much food in the next four decades as we have produced, so far, in the entire history of agriculture – some 10,000 years.
This year, the QEPrize trophy has been designed by 16-year-old Jack Jiang, from Hong Kong. Jack’s trophy design was chosen from thousands of entries to the Create the Trophy competition, a biennial search for the best young designers aged 14-24.
Jack attended the 2019 QEPrize announcement in February this year, where he was revealed as the Create the Trophy competition winner by Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum. He also had the chance to meet the 2019 QEPrize winners and HRH The Princess Royal. We spoke to Jack to find out a bit more about his experience of winning the Create the Trophy competition and attending the announcement ceremony.