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Biological engineering, biotechnological engineering or bioengineering (including biological systems engineering) is the application of concepts and methods of biology (and secondarily of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science) to solve real-world problems related to the life sciences and/or the application thereof, using engineering’s own analytical and synthetic methodologies and also its traditional sensitivity to the cost and practicality of the solution(s) arrived at.
In this context, while traditional engineering applies physical and mathematical sciences to analyze, design and manufacture inanimate tools, structures and processes, biological engineering uses primarily the rapidly developing body of knowledge known as molecular biology to study and advance applications of living organisms.
The differentiation between biological engineering and overlap with Biomedical engineering can be unclear, as many universities now use the terms “bioengineering” and “biomedical engineering” interchangeably. Biomedical engineers are specifically focused on applying biological and other sciences toward medical innovations, whereas biological engineers are focused principally on applying biology – but not necessarily to medical uses. Neither biological engineering nor biomedical engineering is wholly contained within the other, as there are non-biological products for medical needs and biological products for non-medical needs.
An especially important application is the analysis and cost-effective solution of problems related to human health, but the field is much more general than that. For example, biomimetics is a branch of biological engineering which strives to find ways in which the structures and functions of living organisms can be used as models for the design and engineering of materials and machines. Systems biology, on the other hand, seeks to utilize the engineer’s familiarity with complex artificial systems, and perhaps the concepts used in “reverse engineering”, to facilitate the difficult process of recognition of the structure, function, and precise method of operation of complex biological systems.