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Interesting Lectures and Seminars

Master's Course in Medical Engineering
―A future in which medicine and engineering will combine to completely replicate a heart!? ―

Ayaka Kimura
2nd year student in the Master's Program of the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering

During class, an easy-to-understand explanation of medical treatment using cell sheets

Students in the Master's Course in Medical Engineering study advanced medicine born from a fusion of medicine and engineering. Incidentally, what comes to mind when you hear the term "fusion of medicine and engineering?"

Most likely, you imagine the fusion of medicine and mechanical engineering such as ultra-small stomach cameras and remote control robots for surgery. However, were you aware that medicine has actually progressed dramatically in recent years due to engineering knowledge such as biology and chemistry?

Regenerative medicine is one area that is attracting particular attention. This master's course features appearances and introduction of research by researchers involved in regenerative medicine at the Tokyo Women's Medical University Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science. At the institute, teams consisting of doctors, chemists, biologists, mechanical engineers and other researchers are working to create cell sheets. When applying chemistry to culture dishes where cells are cultivated, it is possible to create sheets on which cells gather. For example, assume that a cornea has become cloudy due to injury or other circumstances. By cutting a section of the cornea and affixing it to a cell sheet, a new cornea is generated. Also, the function of a heart can be recovered by affixing a cell sheet to the heart of a patient with cardiac failure. In the future, it may become possible to completely create hearts and livers by stacking multiple cell sheets.

This kind of medical technology incorporates all kinds of engineering knowledge. For example, knowledge of chemistry is required to determine the type of chemical operations which should be applied to culture dishes. Knowledge of biology is needed in order the method of cultivating stem cells in order to produce heart cells. It is truly a field in which new medical techniques are born through a fusion of medicine and engineering.

The majority of students enrolled in the course this semester are graduate students majoring in life science and medical biosciences. During daily research activities, it is easy to become engrossed in short-term experiments, losing sight of the goal of advancing medicine. This class introduces examples of medical engineering's application to clinical medicine. As a result, it reminds us of the main goal of creating a partnership between medicine and engineering, thus making us reconfirm the position of our research. Although this course is currently available only to graduate students, I personally hope that 1st year undergraduate students will be allowed to enroll in the class in order to feel the grand scale of future possibilities.