Our view of science tends to be compartmentalised. But scientists from different disciplines often work together. Their very differences provide new insights, perspectives and understanding. Sometimes such collaborations lead to innovative technologies.
Take David Hukins, for example. A former Professor of Physics at Aberdeen, he’s now Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Head of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. His seemingly disparate knowledge and skills is particularly valuable when dealing with the structure, function, failure, replacement and repair of tissues and parts of the human body.
We’re already familiar with the success of joint replacement. They have improved dramatically in the last few years. People are recovering more quickly from the operation, and the joint itself is lasting much longer. This is in part due to the skill of surgeons. It’s largely due, however, to new materials and new engineering.
Professor Hukins is involved in the development of new methods for engineering surfaces, and new coating materials and techniques so that artificial joints are even more successful. Because of this kind of work, a start has been made in replacing the intervetebral joints of the spine.
Tissue engineering, in its infancy, has already been used to repair cartilage.