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What is Bioelectronics?

Bioelectronics is the combination of electronic devices and living systems. It is an interdisciplinary research field and involves elements of chemistry, biology, physics, electronics, nanotechnology, and materials science. With growing technical ability that enables integration of biomolecules with electronics, a broad range of functional devices has been developed. One of the most important aspects has been the development of communication interface between biological materials and electronic components.

This synergy between electronics and biology, has led to the use of electronics technologies at atomic scale and rapid advances in system, cell, and molecular biology. As a result major leaps in medical science can be expected such as restoration of vision, reverse spinal cord injuries, etc. The biomedical industry will garner huge benefits with development of advanced biosensors, biochips, artificial organs, and prosthetics. Other industries that will benefit include environment and defence with the aid of chemical-biological detection technologies.

Emerging Opportunities in Bioelectronics to Aid Market Growth

Many emerging opportunities in bioelectronics have been identified. It is likely to have a major impact in curtailing costs associated with major diseases. The potential below indicates the benefits to the healthcare industry alone. Similar benefits across other industries can be expected.

  • The cost of new cases of cancer and deaths resulting from in 2008 in the US was pegged at $90 billion in direct medical expenses and an additional $130 billion in lost productivity.
  • In 2008, heart diseases cost $172.8 billion in direct medical expenses and $114.5 billion in indirect costs.
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, the estimated medical costs associated with diabetes were pegged at $116 billion in 2007, with an additional $58 billion in indirect costs.

Potential Advancements across Industries are driving the Industry

The potential for bioelectronics lies in initiating unprecedented advancements in other industries such as medical devices and diagnostics, and companies from medical and biotechnology industries have led investments in the development and commercialization of bioelectronic devices. A number of top information-technology (IT) companies have also realized the potential and are pursuing research in molecular electronics. A number of research programs are underway with involvement of myriad disciplines, as diverse as materials, computer science, communications, electronics, and molecular biology. Of these biomedical applications are closest to commercialization. Early detection of heart diseases, cancer, stroke; treatment of respiratory diseases, diabetes, kidneys; artificial sensory organs such as eyes, nose etc are likely to drive the health monitoring and treatment and prosthetics industries.

The exponential growth in the industry will also be impacted positively by vital areas of science and technology, including sensors, nanoelectronics, and metrology. The United States is making efforts to include expertise from academia and industry to emerge as a leading country for research and development.

Going forward

Given the potential of bioelectronics industry, heavy investment in research that crosses disciplines can be expected such as electrical engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, and materials science. Some of the primary areas of research include the study of molecule and cell-electronics interfaces, to understand responses of cells to stimulation – mechanical, electrical, thermal, chemical, etc; collection and analysis of data on the state of biomolecules and cells; monitoring the biochemistry of a single cell or a population of cells; etc.

Barring some exceptions, a number of bioelectronics technical approaches have not been proven commercially. With a number of applications at the discovery and development stage, for migration of technology to mass markets, heavy investment from the industries to benefit can be expected.

Jay Karia

Author: Jay Karia

Digital Marketing Executive at Inkwood Research.

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