Thursday, September 28, 2006


The terms biomedicine, biomedical engineering and such are recent additions to my vocabulary as they are being more and more used in technical and non-technical context. Today I came across a brand new term, bioelectrics. As I am typing this up I realize it is being immediately underlined red—looks like the word has not made to the Word processor dictionary either. I am using Word 2002 – SP3. Just shows how fast we are moving forward and breaking new grounds in science and technology. Hold this thought.
Back to bioelectrics: the article appeared in IEEE Spectrum, August 2006 edition. Let me capture the thought by quoting directly from the article:
“40 Thousand volts, four thousand amperes, and over one hundred million watts squeezed into a cubic centimeter. You’d think that would be enough to vaporize just about anything, and it certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of electricity you’d want to apply to your body. But if our research continues to succeed as it has, years from now we’ll be asking some cancer patients to do just that. And it might just save their lives.”
Per the article the period this amount of energy is applied to the cell is in the matter of nanoseconds. The energy applied to the cell is enough to create a huge electric field at the membrane of the cell and break it down. As a result a hole will be created across the membrane of the cell. Ions will pour in and cause the cell to short circuit. We just destroyed a bad cell in matter of nanoseconds!
I admit it’s fascinating. Like any other R&D project millions of dollars is spent with a small hope that this: applying high voltage to the cell is going to someday be branded as the cure for cancer. That’s the goal. But, even if that is not achieved, the least something good comes out of it.
That concerns me most. You see each edition of Spectrum has many WOW stories like this. As mentioned before we are moving forward in the science and technology field with incredible speed—pairing disciplines that have almost nothing to do with each other. Despite this we still don’t have a cure for cancer and HIV. In the previous centuries, 18-20, I call these the golden centuries, so much good was done. Human life improved by Louis Pasteur’s extraordinary contribution to microbiology and medicine, getting an X-Ray would have been impossible had Marie Curie not discovered Radium and so much more.
Just what exactly do we, the generation of 21 century, have to be proud of? Oh, I know! ipod! (I know I am being too sarcastic) But, I think you get the point.

No comments: