Medicine’s intersection with engineering has been a Purdue focus since the establishment in the 1970s of the Hillenbrand Biomedical Engineering Center. With the creation of the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in 2004 (the program was formed at the department level in 1998), and ongoing healthcare–related activity across the College of Engineering, Purdue continues to deliver significant advances in areas including cardiac care, orthopedic implants, medical imaging systems, drug delivery, and tissue engineering. More than 75 U.S. patents have been issued based on Purdue discovery research in biomedical engineering, and more than half of those have been licensed for use by industry.
Here, a look at 10 Purdue biomed milestones over the years.
|1961||PhD students Edward Schmidt and Frank Clark enroll in the School of Electrical Engineering, pursuing research on information transmission in the nervous system of pigs—and initiating the first documented biomedical engineering project at Purdue.|
|1976||Mechanical engineering professors Ben Hillberry and Allen Hall construct a rolling contact joint that can be used in a prosthetic knee joint. Today their design is used to help some of the 435,000 Americans who have a hip or knee replaced each year.|
|1977||Chemical engineering professor Robert Hannemann and mechanical engineering professor David DeWitt invent a method of evaluating levels of jaundice in infants without drawing blood, becoming the first researchers (since the Middle Ages’ idea of “humours”) to demonstrate a correlation between jaundice’s telltale yellow color and the patient’s bilirubin level.|
|1980||Electrical engineering PhD student John Anthony Pearce completes his dissertation on the current and temperature distribution under current-carrying electrodes on the skin. This dissertation soon becomes the basis for FDA standards for electrosurgical dispersive electrodes.|
|1981||Hillenbrand researchers Les Geddes (shown above) and Joe Bourland help to develop the first automated miniature defibrillator. This device, which jolts the heart with electricity during a heart attack, is small enough to implant inside a person. Implantable cardioverter–defibrillators (ICDs) are later also combined with pacemakers and become one of the standard treatments for heart disease.|
|1988||After unexpectedly discovering healing qualities of intestinal cells while looking for ways to make substitute blood vessels, Hillenbrand researchers help to develop a method for preparing a tissue graft composition. This revolutionary material, called small–intestine submucosa, or SIS, prompts the human body to replace damaged tissues with little or no scarring, re–creating the healing efficiency of young children.|
|1997||Purdue chemical engineers under the direction of Nicholas Peppas synthesize a novel drug delivery system that offers promise to the United States’ 20.8 million children and adults with diabetes. The glucose–sensitive hydrogel is designed to deliver insulin to diabetic patients using an internal pH trigger, enabling the individual’s own glucose level to determine and direct the insulin delivery.|
|2002||Industrial engineering professor Nagabhushana Prabhu’s work on the applications of optimization leads to a sensitive new technique for diagnosing malignancy in breast tumors. Instead of looking at a slide under a microscope, the pathologist takes a digital image and analyzes it mathematically. The procedure is not only less invasive than a surgical biopsy but also more accurate than the most common current methods.|
|2005||Civil engineering professor Ernest “Chip” Blatchley III teams with medicinal chemistry professor Donald Bergstrom and biomedical engineering professor J. Paul Robinson to develop an ultraviolet (UV) water disinfection process using microspheres to measure dose distribution measurements. Now thousands of utilities in the U.S. are considering UV applications in drinking water production.|
|2006||The National Science Foundation establishes the Engineering Research Center for Structured Organic Composites, in which Purdue is a participating member. The center’s mission: to improve the way pharmaceuticals (along with foods and agricultural products) are manufactured.|